B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau thinks that the NDP government is ignoring the lessons of history in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a recent interview with retired journalist Bill Amos, Furstenau advanced this argument by citing cholera outbreaks, the Spanish flu pandemic after the First World War, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s.
With HIV/AIDS, she noted that governments educated people about how the virus was being transmitted. They were told that unprotected sex and shared needles contributed to the spread. And they also learned about effective measures in response.
"It wasn't 'wear a condom if you choose to'," Furstenau said. "Condoms became widely and freely available."
In the case of cholera, she said that there were serious efforts to clean drinking water through the installation of effective sanitation.
But she maintained to Amos, host of And Now the News podcast, that "implementable solutions" have not been advanced to clean the air to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"Okay, the air is the issue here," Furstenau said. "So how do we make sure air is as clean and safe as it possibly can be?"
She answered her own question by highlighting the importance of proper ventilation and filtration of the air.
She also mentioned the value of opening windows to increase the flow, as well as new technology, such as UV lights, that can further clean the air.
"Cleaning that air is a fantastic way to diminish the amount of potential virus in the air," Furstenau told Amos.
She declared that there's a need for measurable standards for indoor air quality, plus incentives and supports to meet those standards. She noted that measuring carbon-dioxide levels can also provide guidance to prevent the spread of the virus, including from an asymptomatic person who might in a room.
"I think that it should be agreed that we want to have less of this virus in our communities and in our society," Furstenau said. "That should be the goal, right? How do we suppress this? How do we keep the impacts of this minimal? How do we protect the most vulnerable?”
B.C. Green leader says the public is on its own
Furstenau, who has a master's degree in history, also informed Amos that people grew weary of public-health measures in the second year of the horrific Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century.
"It was at that point that the deadliest wave of the flu pandemic actually hit," she said.
For months, Fursteau has been calling for the creation of an independent panel of experts to offer advice to the government.
In addition to having medical and scientific experts, she argued that this panel should include a sociologist, psychologist, and historian.
Early in the interview, Furstenau told Amos that the NDP government's overall message to the public has been "we're kind of on our own now in COVID."
According to her, this is being done as little testing is being conducted. So even though B.C. residents are on their own, she insisted that they don't have "an accurate picture in real time" of the level of illness in their communities upon which they can base decisions.
In addition, she claimed that the province is not doing much to educate the public about Long COVID. She cited a recent study showing that Long COVID can affect one in four children, who experience symptoms for an extended time after infection.
Furstenau also told Amos that studies indicate that Long COVID can strike 10 to 30 percent of infected adults, leaving them with such symptoms as fatigue, brain fog, heart issues, lung issues, and the onset of diabetes. (A recent meta-analysis suggested that 49 percent of people globally have said they've shown symptoms after 120 days.)
"It's not about shutting down everything and everyone staying in their homes," Furstenau said.
Rather, she said that the goal should be to curtail transmissions to reduce the number of people being off work due to illness, which only exacerbates a growing labour shortage.
At the start of the podcast, Furstenau emphasized that she was not attacking any individual, including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.
"That's not how I approach things," she said. "I am really looking at policy."