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

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

A group of Abbotsford secondary principals’s and vice-principals are at a retreat in Whistler this weekend. (Whistler.com photo)
Abbotsford principals attending retreat in Whistler despite COVID-19 gathering restrictions

Unclear how reported group of 20 will be following COVID-19 protocols during Whistler Pro-D event

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of Abbotsford student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

John Redekop, with wife Doris, was the 2019 recipient of the Betty Urquhart Community Service Award from UFV. (Photo courtesy of UFV)
Nominations open until Oct. 30 for UFV’s Betty Urquhart Awards

Award recognizes ‘significant impact’ of volunteer work by an individual or group

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Green party Leader Sonia Furstenau arrives to announce her party’s election platform in New Westminster, B.C., on October 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. Green party says it’s raised nearly $835,000 in 38 days

NDP Leader John Horgan is holding his final virtual campaign event

Most Read