Calling it “alarmist” Interior Health is taking aim at an Okanagan media outlet for its “projected death” calculation that upwards of 5,800 people in the Okanagan could die from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Karin Goodison, a medical health officer with Interior Health, spoke to an article that appeared online March 12 and in a print edition March 13.
“Epidemiologists… make these calculations have many years of training to interpret the data to use it appropriately,” said Goodison.
“You can’t take number X and multiply it by number Y and end up with anything that makes sense – this is a complex situation and you just can’t put X Y and Z together to get an appropriate range of death, this is alarmist and not helpful,” added Goodison.
She was particularly upset that the article had specific numbers for the “projected” deaths for seven Okanagan communities.
“So to tell Oliver that 50 people could die it’s very concerning when this gets written when there’s already enough angst,” said Goodison. “For one we don’t know a lot about what to expect, every virus is its own self and will act in unpredictable ways and we are learning a lot more about this as it goes along and we’re using that to drive our intervention, so everything is rapidly moving forward.”
“We have actively been working on the containment part and all that will change,” she said. “The normal epidemic curve rises very rapidly at the start and reaches a peak and falls very rapidly.”
Goodison also put those projected figures into context saying there has only been one case of the virus in the Interior Health region and that person is doing well in isolation, and that in the province there has only been one death.
“Of the things (in the article) that really annoyed me, they’re (publication) comparing it to SARS (Coronavirus) killing 44 people in Canada, well let’s talk about how many people die from influenzas in Canada which is about 3,500, they’re not even using a good comparative,” she said. “Then they’re talking about how many people died in the Air India bombing, so I would say let’s talk about two or three people dying everyday from poisoning from illicit drugs in B.C.”
She urged the public to listen only to medical officials about what to do during this pandemic.
“I think what scares most people is the fear of the unknown,” said Goodison.
“So what Dr. Bonnie Henry (provincial health officer) is trying to do with her message to the public everyday is reduce that fear of the unknown by keeping us apprised of the latest information and we urge all your readers to listen to her excellent guidance.”