Canadian Urban Institute says though data-sharing has been improved, more is needed to come up with 'hyper-local' solutions.
Canadian cities are taking the brunt of the health and economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there isn’t enough detailed data about the virus to understand the full impact and devise local solutions, according to a new report.
This is particularly true in B.C., where neighbourhood-level data is unavailable and numbers for health service delivery areas and local health areas are updated just once per week.
“We need data to inform what’s the right level of support and intervention to support those communities, but we also need resources and policies that are hyper-local, that are tailor-made for those particular circumstances — whether it’s in Antigonish, or if it’s in Saint John, or Pembroke, or the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver,” said Mary W. Rowe, president and CEO of the Canadian Urban Institute.
The institute has released snapshots of COVID-19 in Canada’s cities 100, 200 and now 300 days into the pandemic. The latest report, released on Wednesday, notes that COVID-19, like previous pandemics, has primarily affected urban areas. Canada’s 20 largest cities are home to 42 per cent of the country’s population, and also, disproportionately, 65 per cent of its confirmed COVID-19 cases and 69 per cent of deaths.
As of Jan. 3, Vancouver had recorded 952 cases per 100,000 population, and 26 deaths. Surrey had 2,023 cases per 100,000 people and 31 deaths. The inequities that exist within cities are being emphasized by the pandemic, which is hitting racialized people, those with low incomes and those with disabilities much harder. Rowe said these deepening divides are happening at a neighbourhood level, and although more data has become available as the pandemic has progressed, it’s not enough.
Locally, the province has provided totals for cases, hospitalizations and deaths since the early days, however maps with monthly totals in local health areas began being published in the summer, and weekly maps for health service delivery areas and local areas came online later in the year.
There have been calls locally for more transparency, including from service providers in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has cited protection of privacy for not delivering numbers broken down by neighbourhood.
The lack of really detailed virus data is one reason Simon Fraser University geography Prof. Valorie Crooks and a team of researchers used census data to create maps that show COVID-19 risks in B.C. neighbourhoods.
“They’re offering a scale much more granular than what we’re typically seeing information for. What we see in this report shows exactly why we need to do that — we are seeing that inequities between or within neighbourhoods are starting to become clearer,” Crooks said.
She pointed out that it’s difficult to have really responsive, on-the-ground policy solutions that are tailored to particular neighbourhoods or areas of urban centres without “finer resolution data” that is provided in a timely manner.
However, Crooks also understands the argument for protecting privacy when the numbers of infections and deaths are relatively small.
“If I were potentially in the Ministry (of Health) I might be looking to think about can we release some historic data that offers a finer resolution at the geographic scale there seems to be kind of an appetite for among the public in a way that would be appropriate and consistent with our confidentiality and integrity legislation,” she said.
Source: VANCOUVER SUN News
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