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 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 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 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 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

Police seek assistance locating missing Hope teen, last seen near Agassiz

RCMP say Jada Charlie-Carlson was last seen Monday in the 61000 block of Lougheed Highway

Air quality across the Lower Mainland could worsen slightly

AQ health index could see ‘low risk’ gravitate into ‘moderate risk’ from Vancouver to Hope

‘Alien invasion’: Strange webbing creeps in overnight in Agassiz,Harrison

Eerie webbing might be the result of a growth in moth population

New video takes viewers soaring over Cultus Lake

Posted to YouTube, the vid showcases the natural beauty of the lake and its surroundings

COVID-19 won’t stop the purple lights from shining this October

Purple Light Nights, with a mission to shine a light on domestic violence, kicks off Oct. 1

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

6 puppies rescued in mass seizure on Princeton farm die from illness: BC SPCA

Of the 97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized, most of the puppies suffered from parvo

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

U.S. boater fined $1,000 for violation of Quarantine Act

49-year-old man entered Canada to visit girlfriend in Surrey

More sex abuse charges laid against B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’

Investigators now focussing efforts on alleged victims within the Glad Tidings Church community

B.C. VOTES 2020: Businesses now owe $6 billion in deferred tax payments

COVID-19 relief from remittance to province ends with September

Long-term care study credits fewer COVID deaths in B.C. than Ont. to funding, policy

The study was published Wednesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Most Read