Under mounting pressure, Henry says reopening B.C. will happen ‘safely, slowly, methodically’

A man walks past portraits of Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry on a boarded up business in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardA man walks past portraits of Dr. Theresa Tam and Dr. Bonnie Henry on a boarded up business in downtown Vancouver, B.C. Wednesday, April 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canadian citizen Dale Johnston of South Surrey and US citizen Diane Sumi of Edmonds, Washington are seen at the border of the two countries in Langley, B.C. Friday, May 1, 2020. Johnston and Sumi who have been dating for three and a half years have been separated from being together since the borders were closed due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardCanadian citizen Dale Johnston of South Surrey and US citizen Diane Sumi of Edmonds, Washington are seen at the border of the two countries in Langley, B.C. Friday, May 1, 2020. Johnston and Sumi who have been dating for three and a half years have been separated from being together since the borders were closed due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Artist Lukas Lundberg pauses to talk to a passerby while working on a painting of Wonder Woman depicted as a doctor on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl DyckArtist Lukas Lundberg pauses to talk to a passerby while working on a painting of Wonder Woman depicted as a doctor on the boarded up windows of a closed Gastown business, in Vancouver, on Sunday, April 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A grocery store security guard takes peoples temperatures prior to allowing them into the store in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardA grocery store security guard takes peoples temperatures prior to allowing them into the store in downtown Vancouver on Wednesday, April 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

As British Columbians eagerly await specifics on how restrictions will be eased in coming months, B.C.’s top doctor has the difficult task – envious to few – in finding the balance of supporting business and social needs while maintaining safety.

The biggest concern for provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to consider is ensuring the province won’t see a resurgence of cases, which could lead to high rates of hospitalizations and puts older demographics and those with underlying health conditions at risk.

Over several news conferences in recent weeks, Henry has voiced that while she understands many are feeling fatigue due to weeks-turned-into-months of social restrictions all of that hard work to flatten the curve could be undone – and rather quickly – if easing restrictions isn’t backed by evidence-based and thoughtful planning.

ALSO READ: Broadening social circles will look different based on health risks, Henry says

“We will not move forward with opening up different sectors until we’re ready, until we’re sure that we have a plan that is workable, and make sure we have these plans and precautions in place,” she told reporters on Saturday (May 2).

Re-opening will likely include “engineering controls” or physical barriers such as Plexiglass walls, Henry explained, as well as personal protective equipment for employees and caps on the number of people allowed inside a store or facility to maintain two metres of physical distancing.

While Henry and Premier John Horgan have hinted that restaurants could be one of the first industries to be re-opened, there are a number of sectors that will likely have to wait, specifically casinos.

“It’s certainly not in the first phase of what I’m considering or what we’re considering in terms of of how do we get things moving again in our economy and in our social structures and such,” Henry said on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Horgan said earlier this week that in-classroom teaching won’t resume until September.

Poultry plants, care homes remain top concerns in weeks ahead

Each province has started taking strides to developing plans to re-open businesses.

In Prince Edward Island, gatherings up to five people from different households are now allowed, as well as non-contact outdoor recreational activities.

Garden centres, automatic car washes and some workplaces will be restarting Monday in Ontario.

In New Brunswick, post-secondary students are back in physical classrooms. Social contact restrictions have been eased to allow two families to meet in person at a time.

ALSO READ: Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’

Outside of Montreal, retail stores will open back up Monday while businesses located within the city will do the same on May 11. Quebec has seen the highest number of cases and fatalities due to COVID-19, but government officials there plan to be testing 14,000 people a day in coming weeks.

COVID-19 in Canada
Infogram

Henry said Saturday that plans will look different province to province because orders and bans were implemented at different times and under varying circumstances.

“If we look at what we have put in place and the orders and restrictions here in B.C., they have not been as draconian if you might say as some of the other places, so we also need to look at timing,” Henry said.

There are also still a number of concerns around ongoing outbreaks, within 20 long-term care homes across the province, as well as in three acute-care clinics, three poultry facilities and an oilsands project in northern Alberta implicating workers from B.C.

“It is a bit of a cautionary tale for us that we have seen these outbreaks in these poultry plants, for example,” Henry said. “That tells us that we need to make sure that we have the right safety measures in place in each different area of our economy to make sure that we can all be comforted and understand that we are opening up safely, slowly and methodically.”

B.C. must consider neighbours to the south, Henry says

Even as groups such as the B.C. Restaurant and Foodservices Association get tasked with crafting potential plans on what re-opening certain industries could look like, one of the biggest threats to B.C.’s transmission rates is located south of the border.

“We are very close to a very large country that is having itself a very large outbreak,” Henry said. “As we know, early on, Washington state had a dramatic increase in cases that affected us quite dramatically here in B.C.”

Last week, Ottawa and White House officials agreed to extend the current border closure until roughly May 18, for now. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said travel restrictions will only be lifted when health officials determine it is absolutely safe to do so, President Donald Trump has motioned he would support re-opening the border to boost the economy.

ALSO READ: ‘A need to protect our citizens’: Many weeks away before U.S.-Canada border reopens, says Trudeau

On Monday, the B.C. government is expected to unveil its latest data on COVID-19 case modelling since expanding testing strategies to include more people who show symptoms related to the respiratory illness.

Horgan is also expected to unveil a multi-phase plan in how eased restrictions will be phased in. Henry said testing will be a vital piece in entering these stages, as well as contact tracing to accurately track community transmission of the disease.

It’s unclear how long the eased restrictions will last. Henry, backed by several other health officials in the country, have warned that daily life will include some social contact restrictions – which could be tightened again in the fall – until there is a vaccine.

ALSO READ: Should a vaccine for COVID-19 be made mandatory in Canada, once it’s created?


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

The Nisga’a Valley Health Authority reported an isolated cluster of COVID-19 cases among non-direct care staff at the New Aiyansh Health Centre. (Gary Fiegehen/Nisga’a Lisims Government)
New Aiyansh Health Centre experiencing COVID-19 cluster among non-direct care staff

Nisga’a Valley Health Authority asking residents to cancel appointments outside the Nass Valley

A photo of the CervixCheck at-home test kit, developed by Eve Medical. (Submitted Photo/Katina Pollard, Métis Nation British Columbia)
Pilot project puts cancer screening into the hands of northwest B.C. women

Métis women experience barriers to cervical cancer screening

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

The Nisga’a Lisims Government has extended its state of local emergency. (File photo)
Nisga’a state of local emergency extended, vaccines delayed

There are 21 active COVID-19 cases in the Nisga’a Valley Health Authority

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

Most Read