Thursday March 10, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc. | Island Social Trends
COVID is not over. Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry made that very clear today. She said that current vaccinations are likely to hold their effectiveness, but the virus will naturally seek to find new ways to prevail.
As Health Minister Adrian Dix said: “The virus lives to transmit and finds different ways to transmit.” But Dr Henry said today that she’s “optimistic” that the next strain of SARS-CoV-2 will be “a strain that is not that much more transmissible”.
But she admits no one really knows. By fall there may need to be a change in the vaccine products to keep up with new conditions in that regard, she noted.
And if a new more virulent strain emerges, that will require reinstatement of (or new) public health orders, she explained. And “we have the tools that we know how to use, and we will bring them back if we need to,” she said. But that lies ahead in the fall, if at all.
Easier spring and summer:
But Dr Henry is trying to gift British Columbians with an easier spring and summer for general social relaxation and also a happier graduation season, as she said last week on March 1.
Today she announced a big shift. Effective at 12:01 am tomorrow morning, March 11: the face coverings order will be repeal (i.e. no longer mandated to wear a mask indoors), long-term care visitation will be restored (fully up and running by March 18), the overnight child and youth camp order will be lifted, and the faith gathering capacity limits will be lifted. | Upcoming changes to COVID-19 Restrictions in BC
All of the lifting of restrictions is possible, Dr Henry says, due to lower case numbers of Omicron, including hospitalizations and intensive care admissions being on the decline. Omicron hit hard in December 2021, continued at high levels this January, and started declining in February.
Dropping orders is possible because “we no longer need all of the measures all of the time”, the PHO said. A “baseline” level of community immunity has been achieved.
As of March 9, those levels across BC include 86.6% of eligible British Columbians (i.e. age 5+) having received two doses, while 56.3% of the eligible population (age 12+) has received their third dose (aka booster shot).
As restrictions are lifted, there is likely to be an increases in cases, Dr Henry said today.
Not wearing masks:
Dr Henry says today, as people won’t have to wear masks in public places starting tomorrow: “We’re in a good place but not out of the woods by all means.” She advises people to go with their own comfort level (as to wearing masks) and to respect the choices of others.
BC’s top doctor realizes this will be an “uncomfortable” time and challenging for some people. Ideally, anyone with common sense (and who has heard from Dr Henry today that #CovidIsNotOver) will continue to wear a mask appropriately around other people — perhaps less so in the spring and summer that she is trying to gift us, but more so in respiratory season this fall.
When K-12 schools return from spring break, masks will no longer be required for students, staff and visitors. In SD61 (Greater Victoria) and SD62 (west shore and Sooke) the return from spring break is on April 4.
More changes April 8:
Dr Henry announced today that effective Friday April 8 at 12:01 am: BC vaccine Card will no longer be required, businesses may transition from COVID-19 safety plans to a communicable disease plan, and that post-secondary residence vaccine requirements will be lifted.
Putin contributing to COVID challenge:
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix made one of the first high-profile mentions specifically singling out Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine as leading to increasing the #COVID19 transmission worldwide, as the dislocation and relocation of now almost two million people has occurred in just under two weeks.
As seen in on-the-ground TV news coverage, most people leaving Ukraine have not been wearing masks as they flee for their lives.
In this context, Dix noted the importance of continuing to “vaccinate people around the world”.
“Globally we are (working to) understand the impacts of long-COVID,” said Dr Henry today, adding: “Some of which we won’t know for years from now.”
She mentioned impacts on the brain, but didn’t specify other impacts in her brief response on that topic today.
Dr Henry says things will loosen up for the broader health-care sector (the many colleges whose practitioners provide services like dental, physiotherapy, naturopathy, and many others).
There will be a requirement to have patients and clients acknowledge consent for possible exposure to COVID.
The regular livestreamed media updates are wrapping up. Dr Henry says there could be another one ahead of the April 8 lifting of the BC Vaccine Card.
Minister Dix said there will perhaps be a data modelling update “in the week of March 31”. Today is was mentioned that the Monday to Friday COVID email updates will be issued weekly, starting in April.
COVID came in like a lion (almost 300 live media sessions in two years), and goes out like a lamb: “Thank you for your time today, and we’ll see you soon,” said Dix.
After today’s media session, Premier John Horgan’s Twitter feed offered this summary: “Mask requirements will end starting March 11, while the BC Vaccine Card requirement remains in place until April 8.’
===== LINKS (BC Government):
COVID News Archive (articles by Island Social Trends)
Island Health News Archive (articles by Island Social Trends)