Fraser Health has launched a new COVID-19 portal where it will alert the public to possible public exposures to the coronavirus.
Exposure events will be flagged in cases when public health authorities haven’t been able to contact people identified through tracing. The listing of exposures, which can be found at fraserhealth.ca/covid19exposure, will show the community where it occurred, a specific location, address, date and times.
“It could be the airport or it could be a restaurant where there’s indirect or passing contact,” said the Fraser Health interim chief medical health officer Dr. Elizabeth Brodkin in a call with the press.
Fraser Health’s new portal — which covers an area stretching from Hope to Delta, and includes the Tri-Cities, Burnaby and Surrey — comes amid a surge in community exposure events across the province. That’s in contrast to earlier stages of the pandemic in B.C., which started with travel-related clusters and largely expanded into health-care settings like hospitals and long-term care homes, as well as facilities like poultry factories and prisons where people work and live in close quarters.
The latest spike in cases involve two popular restaurants in Port Coquitlam and Port Moody, as well as more than 70 people who have tested positive due to community exposures in Kelowna over the Canada Day long weekend. That’s also prompted the self-isolation of more than 1,000 people, according to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
“We have recently seen an uptick of cases in our communities and I would like to remind people to remain vigilant in reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19,” said Dr. Brodkin in a written statement.
Possible exposures listed on the new webpage are “believed to be low risk,” according to a Fraser Health press release, as higher-risk exposures tend to be close contacts and therefore are more easily traced without help from the public.
For example, in the case of the recent COVID-19 cases among staff at Earl’s in Port Coquitlam and Brown’s Socialhouse in Port Moody, Dr. Brodkin said contact tracers were able to track down everyone they believe was exposed to staff. That’s why neither of the two public exposures appear on the new portal.
As of Thursday morning, June 23, the website wasn't flagging any public exposure events, despite what Brodkin describes as several ongoing investigations.
“We walk a balance between protecting the privacy of the individuals involved and avoiding creating stigma but still trying to keep the public safe,” she said, adding that per provincial guidelines, Fraser Health has no plans to release a comprehensive list of community exposures.
When a location is flagged, anyone who attended that location at the specified times should be aware that COVID-19 can be transmitted from person to person during an asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic incubation period, and health officials are asking anyone who attended a listed exposure event to monitor themselves for symptoms of the disease.
- Cough or worsening of chronic cough
- Shortness of breath
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle aches
Fraser Health’s COVID-19 public exposure website comes just days after Vancouver Coastal Health region launched a similar portal. Anyone living in the VCH region — which includes Richmond, Vancouver and the North Shore stretching up to Bella Coola — can find information about public exposures to COVID-19 at www.vch.ca/COVIDexposures.