Dr. Henry has an estimate of COVID-19 cases in B.C. and she'll tell us Friday - InfoNews

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Dr. Henry has an estimate of COVID-19 cases in B.C. and she'll tell us Friday

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
March 26, 2020 - 8:00 AM

The number of people infected with COVID-19 being reported every day by provincial health officials are based on positive tests. What about the people self-isolating at home without any confirmation?

Each day, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry reports new confirmed cases in the province and in each health region (there were five new cases in the Interior Health region today for a total of 46).

But she has been very clear that only certain people are being tested – including those living or working in nine long-term care homes where it has been detected, people who have returned from travelling, health care workers and other clusters of cases.

There have been about 30,000 COVID-19 tests conducted in B.C. with 659 confirmed cases.

But what hasn’t been reported is how many people have been told to go home and self-isolate if they have symptoms. Those people have not been tested.

“In terms of how many cases we actually have, based on what’s happened in other places and modelling and things, I do have an estimate in my head,” Henry said today in answer to a reporter's question. “But that’s not a very stable estimate, if you will. It changes day by day.”

She said there would be a briefing on Friday where she can talk about modelling and put estimates of actual cases in the province into context.

What we do know is that the province’s 811 phone line has taken an average of 5,500 calls a day in the last week, according to an email from the Ministry of Health’s communications department.

So, in a seven-day period, almost 40,000 people may have called to talk about whether they have symptoms of COVID-19 (some calls may have been about other health conditions). There is a separate line for non-medical questions.

The average wait time to get through to a “patient navigator” is 22.2 minutes.

When iNFOnews.ca called the 811 line with legitimate concerns about symptoms, the navigator asked questions about travel, contact with others who may have COVID-19 and symptoms. She then recommended self-isolation and explained in detail how that was to be done.

Had we answered those questions differently, she said, we would likely have been passed on to a nurse. The average wait time to get to talk to a nurse over the past week was an additional 70 minutes.

No breakdown was given in the email from the communications department about how many who called in went on to talk to nurses but in the “past number of days this past week” there were almost twice as many nurses on shift per day (68 full-time equivalent) as there were navigators (36).

Ideally the numbers should be closer to the same for each group (67 navigators and 79 nurses each day) and more hiring and training is being done.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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