Sarnia’s mayor wants public health to say where COVID-19 patients live

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Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley wants Lambton Public Health to start releasing number of COVID-19 cases by municipality.

Bradley told Lambton County councillors Wednesday other counties, including nearby Oxford, release the number of cases in each community weekly. And he says in institutional outbreaks, Lambton Public Health has identified the nursing home where the outbreak occurred.

He suggested publicly releasing the information could help show whether the mandatory masking bylaws work. Earlier in the meeting, county councillors decided not to revisit a county-wide mandatory mask bylaw – something Bradley has been calling for since July.

“Wouldn’t that be a good benchmark to have to see if masking is necessary for your community?” reasoned Bradley.

“I don’t like where the county is at on this issue, but we can show really what is happening with the masking, and what a difference it makes. To me, I’m trying to make something good with something I don’t agree with with the county. To me, I think it is a very positive step for everyone in the county.”

Sarnia City/Councillor Brian White agreed saying it would be a unique opportunity in the province to see if masking worked. “It would be interesting to know how the masking bylaws across the county are working.”

But several politicians from small communities voiced concern that people’s personal health information could be easily figured out if the number of COVID-19 cases in each municipality were released.

“It makes people paranoid about each other,” says Brooke Alvinston Dave Ferguson. Global News reported this summer on cases within the Alvinston area sparking a rash of speculation on social media.

And Warwick’s mayor says it may stop people from getting a COVID-19 test.

“Obviously Dr. (Sudit) Ranade (Lambton’s medical officer of health) doesn’t agree with this or he would be releasing this information out,” says Mayor Jackie Rombouts.

“My concern is that people will stop getting tested if they’re afraid if they are going to be outed as having COVID,” she says. “I would hate to see people stop getting tested based on their fear…the information could come back to them.”

Others worried if the information was public, residents in communities without COVID-19 patients would let their guard down.

“What benefit is that? We’re supposed to go out into the community as if it is everywhere….You’re supposed to presume it is anywhere and everywhere,” says Enniskillen Mayor Kevin Marriott. The mayor, who is also the deputy warden, suggested the idea is political.

“It’s been said we should not have politics decide health care.”

County councillors will hear from the medical officer of health on the issue during the Sept. 16 committee meetings before making a decision.