COVID-19 in B.C.: The madness continues

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      I'm trying to think of the right words to describe what just transpired in the spring session of the B.C. legislature. Insane? Bizarre? Freakish?

      As I would watch the daily question period on the Knowledge Network at 7 p.m., I was stunned by the number of B.C. Liberal MLAs who were sitting casually in their seats without masks as they badgered the premier over the breakdown of the health-care system.

      They would raise everything from the shortage of doctors to a new museum, without once pointing to the shockingly high number of COVID-19 cases clogging up the system due to the end of a provincial mask mandate.

      On the government side of the legislature, there were more MLAs in masks, but certainly not all of them. I noticed on at least one occasion that the deputy premier, Mike Farnworth, was not wearing a mask as he sat beside the premier, a two-time cancer survivor.

      Behind the premier, the tourism minister, Melanie Mark, was invariably not wearing a mask.

      Do these cabinet ministers and Opposition MLAs still not know that COVID-19 is mostly transmitted by tiny particles that hang around the air after being emitted through talking, coughing, and breathing?

      Are they ignorant or just inconsiderate? I don't know which is worse.

      Really, how difficult is it to put on a mask before you sit in the B.C. legislature near a two-time cancer survivor, for god's sake?

      Not that Premier John Horgan seemed too concerned. He regularly met people without masks in indoor settings leading up to the by-election that sent the maskless Leader of the Opposition, Kevin Falcon, into the legislature.

      Maybe it's government policy to have people not wearing masks around the premier so as not to make him appear weak. If so, we've truly descended into a Trumpian mindset.

      Over a two-week period in May, 160 people died with COVID-19 in B.C., according to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control. That is more than 11 people per day.

      And that only includes those who tested positive for the disease in the 30 days prior to their death. It doesn't account for those who may have suffered heart attacks, strokes, or organ failure as a result of immune-system or blood-vessel issues that resulted from their initial COVID-19 infection.

      Then, there are those whose cancer treatments have been delayed because hospitals are clogged with COVID-19 patients and so many healthcare workers are taking sick leave.

      This chart recently appeared in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

      Wake up, people!

      Here's a message to those who haven't been paying attention: COVID-19 is a serious disease with primary symptoms of a respiratory ailment. If you don't believe me, then read this paper in the Journal of Applied Laboratory Medicine.

      It's not just MLAs who appear to be afflicted with brain fog to anyone who's read scientific papers about how COVID-19 is transmitted (including this one).

      There were a couple of photos floating around the Internet of large numbers of B.C. doctors meeting indoors and not wearing masks.

      Inclusion B.C., which advocates for people with intellectual disabilities, gathered unmasked for an indoor conference and dance. And don't get me started on Dr. Bonnie Henry, our provincial health officer, who models lousy mask behaviour on a regular basis even as B.C.'s death rate from COVID-19 rocketed ahead Ontario's.

      Near the start of the legislative session, Dr. Henry brushed off a letter by the human rights commissioner, who was concerned about the impact of the end of the provincial mask mandate on people with compromised immunity.

      The provincial health officer was backed up 100 percent by the health minister, Adrian Dix, who's immune-compromised himself. It's a surreal world we live in.

      By the way, COVID-19 also has serious nervous system consequences. That's not something that Henry and Dix have tried in any serious way to bring to the public's attention.

      In a paper published in Science this year, Yale University neurology professor Dr. Serena Spudich and the National Institute of Health's clinical director of neurological diseases and strokes, Dr. Avindra Nath, laid out the gory details after reviewing 15 other published papers.

      These details include loss of smell, stroke, delirium, brain inflammation, encephalopathy, primary psychiatric symptoms (including delusions and paranoia), peripheral nerve syndromes, and neuromuscular disorders.

      "Many people who experience neurologic symptoms that linger after acute COVID-19 are less than 50 years old and were healthy and active prior to infection," Spudich and Nath wrote. "Notably, the majority were never hospitalized during their acute COVID-19 illness, reflecting mild initial disease." 

      They noted that the "pathophysiological mechanisms are not well understood, although evidence primarily implicates immune dysfunction, including nonspecific neuroinflammation and antineural autoimmune dysregulation".

      "It is uncertain whether unforeseen neurological consequences may develop years after initial infection," these two brain experts added. "With millions of individuals affected, nervous system complications pose public health challenges for rehabilitation and recovery and for disruptions in the workforce due to loss of functional capacity. There is an urgent need to understand the pathophysiology of these disorders and develop disease-modifying therapies."

      In closing, it's clear that those who want to wish COVID-19 away or who say we have to learn to live with COVID-19 are deluding themselves if they aren't making serious efforts to stem the spread of this disease through the air.

      Do we really want people who engage in magical thinking to remain in charge of our healthcare, school, transit, and ferry systems?

      We have a major crisis on our hands—and it goes well beyond COVID-19.

      If our leaders are so blasé about how this deadly disease is transmitted, what does it say about their capacity to address other serious societal problems, like the overdose crisis and the climate emergency?

      It's time for all of us in B.C., including school trustees and governors of postsecondary institutions, to get real so we can prevent unnecessary death and disability in our midst.