Almost three months after B.C. recorded its first case of COVID-19, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry is preparing for a “second phase” of health restrictions that eases restrictions on people and the economy.
Repeating her warning that some precautions against the novel coronavirus could be in place for a year, Henry said in her April 23 briefing that Canada and B.C. have reached the peak or “halfway point” of the pandemic. Henry said the target as Premier John Horgan prepares for an early-May address to the province on moving into the summer is a “manageable number” of daily cases, but she continued her policy of avoiding firm predictions of numbers or dates.
“In several places around the world, including here in Canada, we’re at that or past that halfway point,” said Henry, who serves on a national committee with federal chief health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. “We have been fortunate in many ways in BC in that we have not had a dramatic increase – that accelerated upswing that we saw in many other places.
“And we need to continue to look at how we manage our pandemic in B.C. And we manage that risk going forward by opening up industry, by opening up our hospital system, but doing it in a way that includes vigilance and careful thinking, and it doesn’t mean that the virus is going away. To start doing that, we need to reach a manageable number of new cases.”
B.C.’s first recorded case of COVID-19 was reported Jan. 28, 2020. B.C.’s first patient visited Wuhan, the Chinese city where the new virus was first identified, and reported symptoms after he returned to his home in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region. The man was aware of the risk and “self-isolated” after his return, Henry said.
Restrictions soon followed, with large gatherings like sporting events banned March 14, school closures a day later as spring break was running out, and bars, barbers, and sit-down restaurant services shut by March 20.
Asked almost daily about personal services such as hair and nail salons, Henry debunked the suggestion that they have been without public health oversight since B.C.’s historic Barber Act was repealed in 2003. They are inspected and public complaints are acted upon, she said.
“This is an opportunity for us to reinforce the importance of some of those measures in, whether it’s a hair salon, a nail salon, a tattoo parlour, all of those places where we get services that can pose a risk of infectious disease transmission,” Henry said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix has indicated his top priority is resuming some of the 14,000 scheduled surgeries that have been postponed in the pandemic. After clearing 4,000 acute-care hospital beds and setting up new space in Vancouver and New Westminster to brace for severe COVID-19 cases, acute and intensive care admissions have peaked at fewer than 150 and have declined in recent days.
Henry has indicated that medical services such as physiotherapy are key to post-operative treatment for people undergoing procedures such as hip and knee replacement, the largest category of cancelled surgeries. Dentistry has been reduced to emergency only, but the longer basic care is suspended the more severe conditions will accumulate.