Un-masking okayed by Doc Bonnie
Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry announced the lifting of two remaining restrictions that were initially enacted to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic. Universal mask-wearing in healthcare facilities and requirements to show proof of vaccination and rapid test when visiting long-term care and assisted living facilities are not effect as of April 6.
Transmission levels of respiratory illnesses and COVID-19 are decreasing across the province, according to data from the BC Centre for Disease Control, Henry said.
“The pandemic of course, continues,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix at the press conference. But the general public is not at the same risk level as they were before, Henry said.
There are few, if any restrictions left for the general public. Healthcare workers will still need to be vaccinated to work for the foreseeable future (unlike other public service workers, for whom the mandate was lifted in March). Henry called this requirement—and nearly 100 per cent of health workers being vaccinated—”incredibly important” and crucial to allowing the removal of other measures.
“It is what has allowed us to get back to a more normal, pre-pandemic health care system,” she added. Henry said that part of that normal health system involves continuing to mask in various situations—just no longer in all cases.
“We are coming out of the emergency phase for sure,” Henry said of COVID-19’s presence in the world, with focus shifting to it as an established seasonal illness.
But independent expert groups like the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group as well Protect Our Province BC have questioned and challenged the narrative and actions put out by the provincial government throughout the pandemic.
COVID-19 information shared by the government is widely distrusted, according to an independent review of BC’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as previously reported in Capital Daily.
“Part of what they are doing can only make sense if you truly believe that COVID[-19] is a mild respiratory virus,” said Lyne Filiatrault, a former emergency physician who played a significant role in keeping the 2003 SARS epidemic at bay in Vancouver.
Just about every single organ in the body can be affected by COVID-19, and the risk of complications such as Long COVID increases with every repeat infection, Filiatrault said.
Just earlier this week, Protect our Province BC—which Filiatrault is a member of—began a campaign to promote public awareness of the continued risk that COVID-19 can cause to health and well-being.
In the press conference, Henry acknowledged that lots of people are still getting sick.
“The data shows that COVID is definitely out there,” Henry said.
“But we’re not seeing an increase in hospitalizations from COVID.,” she added. “We’re not seeing increases in critical care.”
Filiatrault said that the province’s approach of focusing on COVID-19’s acute impacts to health is neglecting the long-term impacts that the still-circulating virus can bring.
“Excess deaths in Canada are now even higher than what they were during the first wave of the pandemic in 2020—even after accounting for deaths from heat waves and the toxic drug crisis—according to ongoing research from Tara Moriarty, an infectious diseases researcher and associate professor at the University of Toronto.
“Everybody is behaving as if the pandemic is over,” Filiatrault said. “And I don’t blame them, with the message they’re getting by our public health officer.”
Henry did outright state that she believes the pandemic will soon not be classified as a pandemic, saying that the focus will shift to it as an ongoing seasonal illness.
In Thursday’s conference she said she could not confirm at this point that fall boosters will be needed, but expects that they will be made widely available and that there may soon even be combined flu-COVID or pan-coronavirus vaccines. The province is vaccinating vulnerable people this spring, but feels that immunity is long-lasting enough to wait until fall for the general population.
Minister Dix indicated that BC will again announce an overall respiratory-illness (i.e. flu, COVID, and some others such as RSV) response in the late summer or early fall, saying that the 2022-23 season’s approach had succeeded in prompting record numbers of vaccinations. The officials indicated that some measures, such as the just-removed healthcare masking requirement, may return for that season.
Dix said that in the meantime the “fundamentals remain” for illness prevention, citing staying home when sick, washing hands, and covering coughs.
He did not mention masking in that list, and Henry was later about whether indoor masking was being encouraged to the public. She said that people should wear them if they want for their own health (particularly for seniors whose immunity may wane faster) or if they are mildly symptomatic.
Henry said that indoor ventilation was the main focus for preventing indoor spread, and that the province has been pursuing better ventilation particularly in schools.
She also said that the resumption of “rituals and ceremonies” such as handshakes is now okay and that those are valuable—although she personally does not plan to resume shaking hands.
– The Daily Capital