BC quietly reveals lost to follow-up Covid cases after FOIA discrepancy
It started in late August 2021 when this author began asking BC Ministry of Health and the Public Health Authority Service media agents for information regarding Covid testing practices in BC hospitals. This led to an eventual Access of Information request in early December that year. After some discrepancies, just before the new year struck, BC’s official Pandemic update included a disclaimer that revealed a further hidden bias in publically reported Covid case data — patients lost to follow-up. (1-3)
Remember, data was and still is too good to be true in British Columbia. Draconian-forward scientists in Ontario on the pro-vaccine side even took notice once internal memos from Vancouver Coastal Health were leaked to the press in September. (4) That internal information, however, was dropped into their lap two weeks after I sent several phone calls and emails to various media agents, executives, and authorities at BC’s Ministry of Health and Hospitals. Likewise, my initial request was for information on Covid recording and testing practices in hospitals on behalf of CLN.
Non-infectious cases under lock and key
Alongside an apology from Provincial Health Officer, Bonnie Henry, one mysterious cohort of Covid cases in the BC healthcare — normally kept private — was publically reported for the first time. This was only after the existence of those cases, coined discontinued isolations, were exposed to the press in September. (5) Patients can be removed from isolation if their symptoms have reduced after five days of a diagnostic Covid infection. Despite a lack of infection, however, those non-infectous patients can remain in the hospital under poor care due to long-term side effects.
Going by a special BC Gov News release posted in September, the number of non-infectious patients nearly added a 50% increase to the public record. The 330 patients reported in BC hospitals with Covid was closer to 482 according to the full spectrum of private and public statistics. But, as previously reported, one media agent for the BC Ministry of Health was clear with this author in an email that the discontinued isolations would soon be reported regularly. (1) Although it was not then known that any Covid patients were lost to follow-up. (2)
As of September 21, 2021, how many Covid patients in British Columbia’s hospitals on ‘Discontinued Isolation’ were either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, and fully vaccinated?
This information will soon be provided weekly and we will share it at that time.
Marielle Tounsi – Senior Public Affairs Officer – COVID-19 Media Relations – Ministry of Health. September 24, 2021.
Vaccinated patients can still test positive due to viral load but with mild symptoms. For this reason, vaccinated persons that do end up in hospital with Covid-19 will be more likely on discontinued isolation relative to unvaccinated patients. But that is only a hypothesis since three months have passed and discontinued isolations remain private with or without an associated vaccination status. As it turns out, though, those records might not exist.
A FOIA (Freedom of Information Act), referred to as an Access of Information Request in British Columbia, was sent to retrieve data on records that were never publicized. The request included the vaccination status of discontinued isolation cases throughout 2021. (3)
The Ministry did not locate records as they do not have patient level records that would allow them to link discontinued isolation cases on a given day with their vaccination status.
FOI Response – Justice/Health Team, Information Access Operations – Ministry of Citizens’ Services. December 22, 2021.
Lost to follow-up Covid cases from the horse’s mouth
One week after a follow-up with the Ministry of Citizens’ Services, the official Covid cases were released on the BC government’s website as they have been for what seems like an eternity at this point. But there was a new line of text; a disclaimer. Discontinued isolations were finally mentioned once more in this new note, as an exclusion. Beyond this, the disclaimer further revealed a second bias hidden in the statistics. (2)
Note: Active cases exclude those who have died, discontinued isolation or been lost to followup.
BC Gov News – December 30, 2021.
Outside this standard and routine news release by the BC government on December 30, 2021, no other account of lost to follow-up cases exist on any public record directly regarding official Covid case updates. This information is, however, known to clinical scientists as a variable and a limitation in scientific studies. For example, large numbers of lost to follow-up cases occurred in unrelated clinical trials throughout various research communities due to a loss of patients and test subjects after the pandemic began. But the BC Gov News’ release on December 30 is the first acknowledgment of a lost to follow-up bias for Covid cases on the public register.
Does bias in the official records damage national integrity?
This means that government bodies have chosen to go against science and instead hide limitations and potentially uncontrolled biases in official statistics, keeping those details a secret. What’s more, it appears that those limitations are only revealed once enough individuals send the right FOIA and Access to Information Requests. Or, at least, limitations are exclusively disclosed after formal requests from multiple journalists reveal enough discrepancies in the governing bodies’ plan.
We don’t know how many of the patients sick with Covid but lost to follow-up were vaccinated or otherwise. If vaccinated patients were to become lost in the official hospital data after follow-up, it would falsely appear to be predominantly unvaccinated Covid patients filling hospital wards. The same is true for discontinued isolations; keeping in mind that the vaccine does keep symptoms down without eliminating viral load. So what started in August of 2021, will continue into the new year as this author continues to send FOIA requests to better scope information the BC Ministry of Health hides away from the public.
If we take all the datasets, private and public combined, how many vaccinated, Covid-positive patients, do you think are in BC hospitals? Let us know in the comments if you think it supports science to keep non-infectious cases and other limitations a provincial secret.
Note from the author: A new request has been issued for data on discontinued isolations targetting specific weeks rather than days, with or without vaccination status. Further requested was the percentage or number of lost to follow-up cases on the same weeks (or days). Stay tuned for an update, these things take time.
- Marielle Tounsi, Covid Communications, BC Ministry of Health. 09/24/2021.
- BC Gov News. COVID-19 pandemic update. 12/30/2021.
- FOIA response, BC Ministry of Citizen Services. 12/22/2021.
- Secrecy over B.C.’s true number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. CTV News. 09/21/2021.
- BC Gov News. How B.C. counts its daily COVID-19 cases in hospitals. 09/24/2021.
Title photo by @PennyDaflos courtesy of Twitter.