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COVID-19: Privacy and Confidentiality

Changes in Reporting to Protect Privacy and Confidentiality

The COVID-19 response is ever-changing and that includes how we report confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the public. With ongoing concerns regarding your privacy and confidentiality as well as our role as a health organization to protect your personal health information, we have decided to make several changes to our reporting model. As a health organization, we must consider potential challenges associated with sharing of sensitive information and the impact this may have on confirmed cases and their families. We value your trust in our organization and we want all members of our community to feel safe and comfortable coming forward and sharing personal health information with us.

The Porcupine Health Unit will continue to release as much information as necessary to inform and protect the public. To protect the privacy and confidentiality of individuals who are confirmed cases, the PHU will no longer be sharing the age range of the individual nor the testing date. Details such as age and gender will still be collected, analyzed and reported at a group level in the weekly COVID-19 Epidemiology Update. If concerning trends are noted, the PHU will share the information more broadly.

Privacy and confidentiality are maintained throughout the investigation process and names or identifying information is never released to the public. If you have been in close contact with a confirmed case, the PHU will contact you and will provide you with guidance and information.

Rest assured the PHU will continue to share required details associated with possible risk exposure to specific groups of people (e.g., flight details, attendance at a store or restaurant). The PHU will do so when there is benefit for the public to be made aware of the possible exposure and when it can be done in a non-identifying manner for the individual who is the confirmed case.

Reporting of Town/Community of a Case

When providing geographical details of the confirmed case, we will continue to report using “areas”. In order to protect the privacy of the individual and family, the PHU does not provide details regarding the exact town or community of the confirmed case. Since many of the communities in the PHU region are very small, naming the exact community may violate the individual’s privacy and confidentiality. Unless there is a specific risk to the community in a broader sense, no further details will be provided.

COVID-19 is circulating throughout the region. You cannot wait until a case is confirmed in your community to take action – at that point it is too late. We all need to act as though COVID-19 is circulating in our community. We are not immune to the pandemic nor to another wave of COVID-19.

Reporting of Cases when Residents are Outside the Region

For individuals of the Porcupine Health Unit region who were infectious, tested positive and are in isolation outside the area, very limited details will be provided on the case table as the case would pose no risk of transmission to the general public. They are included in the PHU case count as they are a permanent resident.