Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s book, Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe, was released Tuesday by Penguin Random House Canada. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s book, Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe, was released Tuesday by Penguin Random House Canada. (Chad Hipolito/Canadian Press)

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s book offers insight into early days of the COVID-19 pandemic

The book documents the toll of the pandemic on Henry: ‘My sister came home to find me lying on the living-room floor’

British Columbia’s top doctor says a burning anxiety in the pit of her stomach had become her constant companion as China began reporting a few cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan in December 2019.

Dr. Bonnie Henry writes in her new book, “Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe,” co-written with her sister Lynn Henry, that the sense of dread didn’t ease as the number of cases climbed in China.

Among other things, the book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the decisions she made to close restaurants, businesses and schools. It also explains how Henry came up with phrase “be kind, be calm, be safe,” which has become her mantra, featured on T-shirts and painted on rocks.

When Henry declared a public emergency, she says she also wanted to give people hope. That’s when the words kindness, calm and safe came to mind, she writes in the book, published by Penguin Random House Canada.

“I believe we need hope, too,” Henry is quoted in a section written by her sister, “For me, ‘be kind’ fosters emotional well-being and gives people a sense of belonging; ‘be calm’ is about mental well-being and gives meaning; and ‘be safe’ is about physical well-being and gives us a sense of purpose.”

The book says Henry decided to reopen schools because they are a safe place for children where they have access to food, health and social supports. Children with special needs were likely to be more affected, British Columbia’s provincial health officer says.

“Teachers and staff were uniquely placed to notice whether children were in danger at home and to intervene,” she says in the book.

Henry also explains why the province’s modelling projections don’t include a death count. She says the number of deaths is dependent on the government’s response and its ability to prevent transmission, particularly in long-term care homes.

The book recalls how she told a journalist that in B.C., public health officials do not predict the number of deaths. Henry says she realizes her position put her at odds with other public health officials in Canada and elsewhere who present models that project death rates.

The advance the Henry sisters received for the book has been donated to charities that help communities hit hard by the pandemic.

The book also opens a window to the toll the pandemic has taken on Henry.

“My sister came home to find me lying on the living-room floor, still in my work clothes, too tired to move,” Henry says in the book.

“She ordered takeout from my favourite restaurant and poured me a glass of wine, and for an hour or two I almost relaxed. But that night, the spectre of the next few weeks, and how critical they would be, whirled ceaselessly through my mind.”

It offers some lighter observations as well.

“We have learned the true value of toilet paper. We’ve learned that you should never ever do your own hair in a pandemic,” she writes.

“But we have also learned that we can be resilient and adaptable, even when it’s hard. That social connections, even when virtual, are essential. That compassion is stronger than cynicism. That even when faced with unrelenting uncertainty, there is still joy and beauty in the world.”

BC Health

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kelly Ng (left) tries to get the attention of Podzol and Aquila as twin sister, Pauline Ng, snaps a photo of the two dogs by a field of hyacinths at the Chilliwack Tulips attraction on April 13. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
PHOTOS: Strolling through tulips, hyacinths and daffodils at Chilliwack Tulips attraction

Colourful spring flower attraction opened on the weekend in Chilliwack, continues into May

Cannabis plants visible under bright lights inside a large facility at Shxwha:y Village on July 6, 2018. The reserve was home to the licensed producer for Indigenous Bloom, which opened up a dispensary on the Kwaw-Kwaw-Apilt reserve. On April 12, 2021, Shxwha:y announced Health Canada approval for a licensed production facility at the village. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Chilliwack’s Shxwha:y First Nation approved for cannabis cultivation and processing facility

It will be the first majority-owned Indigenous on-reserve licensed facility in Western Canada

Commercial trucks head south towards the Pacific Highway border crossing Wednesday (April 14, 2021). The union representing Canadian border officers wants its members to be included on the frontline priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. (Aaron Hinks photo)
CBSA officers’ union calls for vaccine priority in B.C.

Border officers at ports including South Surrey’s Pacific Highway should ‘not be left behind’

Bat Packs are the newest addition to the FVRL Playground, and have everything you need to learn more about bats, and track them in your neighbourhood. (FVRL image)
Bat Packs at Fraser Valley libraries come with echometer to track bats

Packs are the newest part of the FVRL Playground inventory

Demonstrators at the legislature on April 14 called on the province to decriminalize drug possession and provide widespread access to regulated safe supply across B.C. (Jake Romphf/News Staff)
Rally calls for decriminalization, safe supply on 5th anniversary of overdose emergency declaration

From 2016 to the end of February, 7,072 British Columbians died due to overdose

Surrey RCMP are seeking the public's help to locate three puppies stolen from a South Surrey home on April 10. (Surrey RCMP photos)
UPDATE: 1 of 3 puppies stolen from South Surrey returned to owner

American Bulldog puppy recovered after being sold at Mission car show

Two women walk past ‘The Meeting’ sculptures in White Rock’s Miramar Plaza Wednesday afternoon. (Aaron Hinks photo)
New public art in White Rock faces criticism as the ‘two Michaels’ remain in China’s custody

‘I would encourage people to go out and enjoy it’ said Vancouver Biennale founder

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

(Government of Canada)
Liberal MP caught stark naked during House of Commons video conference

William Amos, in Quebec, appeared on the screens of his fellow members of Parliament completely naked

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Feb. 1, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps to 1,168 Wednesday, nearly 400 in hospital

Now 120 coronavirus patients in intensive care, six more deaths

Moss covered branches are seen in the Avatar Old Growth Forest near Port Renfrew on Vancouver Island, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. blockades aimed at protecting old-growth forests reveal First Nation split

Two Pacheedaht chiefs say they’re ‘concerned about the increasing polarization over forestry activities’ in the territory

Everett Cummings in a tribute video posted to dignitymemorial.com.
Mechanic’s death at Fraser Surrey Docks leads to $200K fine for company, union says

Photos of rally outside Surrey court posted on ILWU’s ‘Kill A Worker Go To Jail’ Facebook page

Most Read