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More specific breakdown of COVID locations a privacy concern: WDG Public Health

'The current reporting structure is an attempt to strike a balance between privacy and information:' Danny Williamson of WDG Public Health
Keegan Kozolanka/GuelphToday file photo

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) Public Health will not give a more detailed breakdown of locations of positive COVID cases due to concerns over privacy and safety. 

The Town of Minto passed a motion at their Tuesday meeting to send a letter to WDG Public Health requesting they share the community locations of positive COVID-19 cases in Wellington County. 

This recommendation came out of a Minto economic development committee meeting where some business owners expressed concern that some community members do not believe that COVID is active in their community.

“There seems to be an assumption that most cases are in the south of Wellington County,” said Belinda Wick-Graham, manager of economic development and committee member. “They (the committee) think it would be beneficial to say there is X number of cases in Minto, X number of cases in Wellington North.”

WDG Public Health’s current case reporting style is by breaking down cases in Guelph, Wellington County and Dufferin County only. 

Mayor George Bridge noted that some other health units do break cases down by community rather than upper-tier municipalities. 

The Grey-Bruce Health Unit, whose coverage area neighbours the Town of Minto, reports number of cases by municipality.

Minto council unanimously agreed on the recommendation. 

Danny Williamson, communications specialist at WDG Public Health, said in an email that they have considered a more detailed community breakdown but have chosen not to for privacy reasons.

“Given how small some of the communities are in our region, there is a risk that someone’s privacy may be exposed as we get more granular with data,” Williamson said. 

“The current reporting structure is an attempt to strike a balance between privacy and information.”

He also explained that there is a risk of a false sense of security with that reporting style.

“Just because a person lives at a certain address and is isolating and recovering there doesn’t mean that area is the source of infection,” he said. 

“They may have acquired COVID-19 when in another community working or visiting.”

Williamson stressed that because COVID is often asymptomatic, it should be assumed that it is circulating within each community and anybody could be a risk to spread.