Canada still only considering gathering race-based COVID-19 data

Canada still only considering gathering race-based COVID-19 data

OTTAWA — After months of calls from advocates for a clearer picture of who is contracting COVID-19 and how it affects them, the Public Health Agency of Canada is still looking into the possibility of collecting more demographic data related to the disease.

Public health officials in the United States discovered weeks ago the deadly virus was disproportionately affecting black communities.

A more recent study released Tuesday by researchers at several American universities found counties in the U.S. with the highest proportions of black Americans represented more than half of all COVID-19 cases and 60 per cent of deaths in the country, despite making up only 22 per cent of counties.

(The study, led by the Foundation for AIDS Research and Emory University, has not been peer-reviewed.)

Advocates in Canada say the same situation is likely playing out here on a smaller scale, but the government isn’t collecting the data to understand who is most at risk.

“There’s a sense that if we were to collect socio-demographic data that includes things like race, ethnicity and income, we can get a better sense of what’s actually happening,” said Paul Bailey, president of the Black Health Alliance.

Black Canadians are more likely to have poor health outcomes related to several chronic diseases, and be impacted by socio-economic factors like poor access to food, housing, and employment than the general population, he said.

All those factors together put them at greater risk from COVID-19.

Armed with detailed data, Canada would be better equipped to respond and help the people most at risk, he said.

Currently Canada gathers only basic data about people who test positive for the disease, including age and gender.

“I think there’s a number of gaps in that data,” Canada’s top public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam acknowledged at a briefing Wednesday.

She said efforts are underway to look at improving the situation, but her deputy, Dr. Howard Njoo said it has to be balanced against the workload.

“Everyone is stretched in terms of working under extreme circumstances,” Njoo said.

The agency is still discussing what kind of data to prioritize, he said.

Those discussions are happening in concert with provinces and territories that are actually responsible for gathering the data from the respective health units.

That’s difficult for Bailey to hear, several months into the Canadian outbreak.

“I think given the specific pandemic, we should be much more nimble and responsive and able to actually ensure that we’re doing things effectively,” Bailey said.

Some health units have already committed to gathering more detailed data, including Toronto’s.

Though it does take work, Bailey said it doesn’t seem particularly difficult to ask more questions when health-care workers admit patients to hospitals or do contact-tracing for positive cases.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 6, 2020.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Front-line hospital workers have walked off the job at the Rimbey Hospital, and across the province. Photo Submitted
Front-line health care workers on strike across the province, including Rimbey Hospital

The strike is due to cut of 11,000 health care jobs in the province, according to AUPE

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, confirmed more than 1,000 cases over the weekend Monday afternoon. File photo
COVID-19: Central zone active cases up Monday

‘We’ve now crossed the tipping point,’ says Hinshaw

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19. (File photo)
432 new COVID cases sets another record Friday

Central zone holds steady at 126 active cases

Ma & Paws Pet Supplies. Facebook/ Ma & Paws Pet Supplies.
Rimbey residents petition for dog park

Request for approval of dog park will be brought up at Tuesday Oct. 27 Town Council meeting.

The future site of the Rimbey Travel Centre. Web photo
New Rimbey development aims to capitalize on highway traffic

Phase I of the Rimbey Travel Centre would be along Hwy. 20, if approved

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join AUPE walk outs across the province Monday Oct. 26, 2020. Shaela Dansereau/ The Pipestone Flyer.
City of Wetaskiwin health-care workers strike in protest of province-wide cuts

Wetaskiwin Hospital staff join other front line hospital workers across the province in walk-outs.

The death of 19-year-old Jacob Michael Chitze of Edmonton has now been ruled a homicide following an ongoing RCMP investigation.
UPDATE: RCMP arrest youth for second degree murder of 19-year-old Jacob Chitze

Arrest made for the murder of Jacob Michael Chitze, 19.

Pumpkins for the 46th Annual WDACS Pumpkin Ball on display at Vision Credit Union Wetaskiwin. Shaela Dansereau/ Pipestone Flyer.
46th Annual Pumpkin Ball held virtually this year

This year the pumpkins were sold over a six-day online auction.

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Leader of the Opposition Erin O’Toole rises during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday October 22, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
O’Toole tells Alberta UCP AGM Liberals were ‘late and confused’ on COVID response

He says Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has taken charge and not waited to make things happen

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives for an announcement at a news conference in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Inquiry into oil and gas foes to deliver report next year: Kenney

A lawsuit filed by environmental law firm Ecojustice argues the inquiry is politically motivated

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

This photo provided by Air Force Reserve shows a sky view of Hurricane Epsilon taken by Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter team over the Atlantic Ocean taken Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.   Epsilon’s maximum sustained winds have dropped slightly as it prepares to sideswipe Bermuda on a path over the Atlantic Ocean.  The National Hurricane Center says it should come close enough Thursday, Oct. 22, evening to merit a tropical storm warning for the island.  (Air Force Reserve via AP)
Hurricane Epsilon expected to remain offshore but will push waves at Atlantic Canada

Epsilon is not expected to have any real impact on land

Most Read