Detailed maps of COVID-19 cases will help track, slow spread, experts say

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit released more detailed information Friday on where COVID-19 cases are located in the community following requests from the public. 

But health unit warns data does not indicate which neighbourhoods are safe

Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed, cautioned that the maps showing where people who had tested positive for COVID-19 live is not an indication of which neighbourhoods are safest. (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit)

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit released more detailed information Friday on where COVID-19 cases are located in the community following requests from the public. 

The maps are colour-coded and reflect the number of positive COVID-19 cases per thousand population. The numbers include active and recovered cases, as well as deaths. It comes after, political leaders across Windsor-Essex on Tuesday, said they were asking the health unit for more specific data. 

Darker colours on the maps show where there is a higher concentration, lighter colours represent a lower concentration and regions without colour mean that nobody living in that area has COVID-19. 

But Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed cautioned on Friday that the areas without colour aren't guaranteed to be COVID-19 free. 

This map shows the geographical distribution of COVID-19 cases, but only shows where those individuals who tested positive for the disease live and not where they contracted the virus. (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit)

He also said the maps show where people are living, which is not an indication of where they might have contracted the virus or which is the "safest" neighbourhood. 

"Sharing that detail is not reflective of which neighbourhoods [are] safe or which neighbourhood is worse, it's just an indicator of where these individuals are living," Ahmed said. "Someone could very well be living in Tecumseh or Lakeshore of anywhere else, but could be working in Windsor." 

Lakeshore Mayor Tom Bain said he hopes the additional information in the maps helps the region get out of Stage 2. 

"We're trying to put every effort we can to get to level 3," Bain said. "We're the only area that's not [in Stage] 3 and any information we can gain in this a huge plus." 

Experts say the more we know about location of cases, the better

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness from the University of Toronto said more information about COVID-19 increases transparency and can help people adjust their behaviours. 

"More information is better than less, more transparency is better than less," he said. 

Furness said the maps may also help identify particular neighbourhoods or vulnerable populations that need more attention. 

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness says 'more transparency is better than less' about the maps put out by the health unit. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

"In those neighbourhoods we can design interventions," he said. "We can go there, we can hire people who speak the right languages, there's all sorts of things we can do once we start to identify there's a particular neighbourhood which may mean a particular population that we're not reaching effectively."

Yet, Furness said public health needs to be careful to not single out or discriminate against certain groups with this data. 

Local researcher Frazier Fathers says he'd like to see a map that shows the number of active cases and the number of resolved per region. (Dale Molnar/CBC )

Windsor-Essex researcher Frazier Fathers said the maps can reveal the spread of the disease. 

"I think going forward mapping like this will be important in that we can see how it changes will allow us to sort of see how those community cases and agri- sector cases are spreading over time and within Windsor-Essex," said Fathers, who's area of expertise is in statistical analysis and public policy.

He added that he would like to see maps that independently show active and resolved cases, as the current maps don't distinguish between those.