COVID-19: B.C. health officials respond to questions of how long pandemic measures will remain in place

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      At today’s daily B.C. COVID-19 update, B.C.’s provincial health office and health minister responded to questions that are on everyone’s mind about how long we will have to live with these pandemic measures in place.

      Before Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix answered those inquiries, Dr. Henry provided an update on the cases in B.C.

      The province has now passed the 1,000 mark for coronavirus cases.

      Dr. Henry stated that there are 43 new cases, bringing the provincial total to 1,013 cases.

      That includes 476 cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, 348 in Fraser Health, 107 in Interior Health, 67 on Vancouver Island, and 15 in Northern Health.

      There are now 19 longterm care homes reporting COVID-19 cases. Dr. Henry clarified that this number, after taking an “aggressive” approach to protect these facilities, reflects a low threshold for declaring an outbreak, and the majority of these locations have only one case.

      There are now 128 patients in hospitals, with 61 people in intensive care units.

      Unfortunately, there have been five more deaths, raising the total to 24 deaths in the province.

      Meanwhile, 507 people have now recovered.

      B.C. is also investigating its first large community outbreak, involving temporary foreign workers at Bylands Nursery in Kelowna.

      In addition, Dix stated that 35 doctors and 444 nurses and assistants have returned to healthcare, and about 530 healthcare workers in private practice have volunteered for the public healthcare system.

      B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, with B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
      Province of British Columbia

      When Dr. Henry and Dix were asked how long British Columbians would have to live with these pandemic measures in place, both responded with answers that indicated that it wouldn’t be within the coming month.   

      Dr. Henry said that they have been “thinking a lot about” this issue, and how the eventual lifting of restrictions can be done in thoughtful way.

      She explained that we are likely in our first wave and that she is looking carefully at the situation in Wuhan, China, as restrictions are being lifted there and that she has seen peaks in other countries.

      “Realistically…we are going to be in some form of having to monitor and prevent transmission of this virus until we have a vaccine or until enough of the population is immune to it that it’s  no longer infecting people, but we know that’s a very high number,” she said. “It’s more and more less likely that we’re going to be able to get back to full, normal life…before at least the summer, and then we need to start preparing ourselves for the potential of a second wave in the fall.”

      Once restrictions are lifted, she said that if we see importations and clusters of cases arise again, the province will have to go back to similar scenario that took place about six weeks ago and change testing strategies once again.

      She added that she doesn’t believe all restrictions will remain in place for the entire time.

      “I don’t think we need to be [in] this lockdown…for many, many months,” she said.

      Meanwhile, Dix stated that there is a “zero chance” that emergency orders would be lifted before end of April and “little to none in May or in the immediate weeks after May”.

      He stated that it was hard to say when restrictions could be rescinded, and it depends on the commitment from the public to “responding with a 100 percent effort to bend the curve”.

      Dr. Henry stated that we might get a reprieve during summer in the same way we do with other respiratory viruses, like influenza, and she added that she is watching situations in Australia and New Zealand closely to see what is happening there as examples.

      Dr. Henry reiterated that the province is at a critical time, and she particularly emphasized the need to push for a vaccine.

      In the meantime, she also encouraged people to consider way to counteract the downside of social isolation.

      “Right now is our time to try and come together and support each other, if not physically but at least to do that socially and virtually.”

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.