(Black Press Media file photo)

(Black Press Media file photo)

Privacy concerns keep COVID-19 cases at University of Victoria off the record

Island Health, UVic not sharing specifics after internal notice confirms coronavirus case

An internal notice sent to the University of Victoria’s (UVic) school of music in early April confirmed someone in the department had tested positive for COVID-19, but the institution and Island Health aren’t publicly sharing the specifics in the name of privacy.

The notice said an individual in the school of music had tested positive and was self-isolating at home.

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The message went on to say that Island Health had conducted contact tracing and did not specify how many people were affected.

When asked to confirm the number of COVID-19 cases and exposures at UVic, a spokesperson for Island Health said that the locations and times of possible exposures are only shared publicly when authorities are “unable to reach or identify all individuals potentially exposed via contact tracing.” In that case, a notice would be posted to the Island Health website.

The spokesperson said an exposure is considered high-risk when there is “face-to-face contact for an extended period of time.” Anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been identified as a high-risk exposure is contacted by Island Health directly.

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“We understand and acknowledge that news or rumours of COVID-19 cases on-campus can cause concern,” said Karen Johnston, associate director of communications and marketing at UVic, in a written statement. “Whenever there is a confirmed case or potential exposure on-campus, the university works directly with Island Health.”

Her statement says protecting privacy while providing people with the information they need is a top priority, noting those who fear their privacy could be violated may avoid getting tested.

When a COVID-19 case is reported at a K-12 school, Island Health begins contact tracing and reaches out to close contacts directly before adding the exposure to its public website.

The Island Health spokesperson said there is no plan to publicly share specific case numbers related to UVic.

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