From the Mayor's Desk:
COVID-19 and Social Media
Doug Lawrance - Sioux Lookout Mayor
Last week Sioux Lookout’s first case of COVID-19 was identified. First let it be said that our thoughts go out to each and everyone who contracts the coronavirus. It is our hope that this case and all cases will have positive outcomes. As news of the first case hit social media there was also a concern expressed by some related to the lag in timing between public knowledge via social media and the Northwestern Health Unit bulletin the following day.
Social media is ahead of the messaging on many items, including release of news of this first COVID-19 case in Sioux Lookout. There are reasons why this difference in timing happens. Related to the timing of release of case information the following explanation is provided by the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Ian Gemmill:
“NWHU receives lab confirmation about cases when testing is complete. Before sharing this information with media or posting to our website, we have to be sure of our facts. We conduct a full investigation on each case to ensure that the report is about a resident of the Northwestern Health Unit area and to determine what risk there is to the community. We act quickly to ensure that cases and contacts are in isolation - the most important measure that needs to be in place to remove risk to the community. We seek everyone’s understanding and support and ask that you wait to share any information about cases until NWHU has confirmed and shared it on our webpage or social media. Finally, we recommend that everyone assume that COVID-19 is in your community and practice physical distancing and hand hygiene at all times to keep yourself and others safe and healthy.”
Social media will often be ahead on news dissemination, in part because of the lack of accountability or need for verification. The intent may be to provide speedy information, however the sources behind social media posts will sometimes get it right, and sometimes not. And at times such posts, especially those with inaccurate information, may have unintended and harmful consequences.
As we enter this phase of knowing that the coronavirus has arrived in our community, let us all continue to act responsibly and respectfully to each other. As a community let’s continue to act calmly and responsibly as we have already been doing in Sioux Lookout for several weeks. And remember, as you see information on social media that may be ahead of announcements by health authorities, that there are legitimate, credible reasons why thoughtful science and evidence aren’t as fast as social media.