A server wears a protective face mask as he passes a coffee to a customer in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

What happens if B.C. re-enters a COVID lockdown? Psychologist says we’ll be OK

UBC professor says cooperation between health officials, politicians has kept pandemic messaging simple

As health officials ask British Columbians to begin restriction their social interactions, a psychologist believes the province can handle another semi-lockdown.

“I think there will be a grumbling acceptance. People will say ‘okay, we’ve got to do this,’” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and psychiatry professor at UBC.

“Most people will; there will inevitably be a small minority of people who are going to not adhere to this.”

Taylor said people shouldn’t be surprised to hear health officials ask them to shrink social circles they may have expanded this summer. B.C. hit a record 124 COVID-19 new cases on Friday, and 294 over the weekend, even as cases began to level off this week.

READ MORE: 1,100 active COVID-19 cases in B.C. following continued surge over weekend

Speaking Monday (Aug. 31), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. was entering a new stage of the pandemic.

“The increase in the number of new cases we have seen over the past few weeks remains a concern for all of us,” Henry said.

She said that while the summer months – which saw B.C. loosen restrictions and allow non-essential travel for the first time since March – were good for people’s mental health, it was time to slow down again.

“We’ve talked many times that we will likely have a second wave,” Henry said, adding that it would likely coincide with the annual cold and flu season.

“As the cooler weather arrives, we all have to be ready… as we step into our offices, our workplaces, our schools, we need to take a step back from some of the social interactions we have had this summer.”

Taylor said that although recent events – like a controversial back-to-school commercial with Henry – may have undermined public trust a bit, British Columbians are still largely understanding of their message.

READ MORE: Teachers’ union slams B.C.’s return-to-school plan; says ad with Dr. Henry is ‘unrealistic’

Unlike the U.S., where the pandemic has become a political issue, the psychologist said that here politicians have moved in lockstep with public health officials, rather than against them.

“The whole issue of adherence to public health measures has become a politicized, from wearing a mask to whether you should open up the community… in the United States, you’ve got this whole ‘give me liberty or give me death’ approach,” Taylor said.

It’s also important to remember that health officials shouldn’t be idolized.

“We put health officials like Dr. Bonnie Henry up on a pedestal,” he said. “We regard them as infallible superheroes, which they’re not; they’re just experts trying to do their best under conditions of uncertainty,

But the way B.C.’s health officials present the new lockdown will be key.

“If they make this more predictable and controllable, then that’s what makes things less stressful,” he said.

“You know, something like ‘the more more you adhere to this, the better our chances of getting over this.’”

For people concerned about cutting off social interactions, especially as the weather worsens, Taylor said to remember that B.C. has gotten through this before.

“None of us want to be here… but it won’t be foreign territory.”

That should help people avoid some of the pitfalls of the first lockdown – panic-buying toilet paper and baking supplies – while providing a template for what did help.

READ MORE: Amid COVID-19 panic, B.C. psychologist urges shoppers to not clear out grocery stores

“People should ask themselves ‘what went well in lockdown last time? What didn’t go so well?’” Taylor said, while reminding themselves that while getting together might seem like a good way to blow off steam, it will only hurt in the long run.

“It’s going to be wintertime. If people choose to go out and party, it will be in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces which is just a recipe for the spread of infection… that’s just going to prolong the pandemic and prolong lockdown for everyone.”

Taylor said routines, planning activities, getting outside and staying active will all be essential to getting through the next months.

“We focus on how badly people are doing, or how anxious or irritable or depressed they are,” he said. “Some of us may be distressed or bummed out… but those feelings should pass for most people. People tend to be very resilient.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

British ColumbiaCoronavirus

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

Just Posted

Sprinkler system extinguishes fire in industrial building in Chilliwack

Progress Way building had only minor fire, smoke and water damage thanks to sprinkler system

UPDATE: Suspect who once killed a man in jail was arrested in Chilliwack after truck fire

Jordan Cole Burt was taken into RCMP custody while wanted on an outstanding warrant

Two Abbotsford elementary schools record COVID-19 exposures, according to Fraser Health

‘Exposures’ defined as 1 positive case at school, ‘clusters’ as 2 or more, ‘outbreaks’ as widespread

UPDATE: Fatal collision Sunday leaves Chilliwack father and five children with minor injuries

Driver who T-boned family after running stop sign on McGuire Road died at the scene

Irish folk supergroup Kíla set to perform on Saturday

Online concert will be available through Harrison Festival Society

B.C. reports 96 new COVID-19 cases, one hospital outbreak

61 people in hospital as summer ends with election

‘Unprecedented’ coalition demands end to B.C. salmon farms

First Nations, commercial fishermen among group calling for action on Cohen recommendations

Earthquake off coast of Washington recorded at 4.1 magnitude

The quake was recorded at a depth of 10 kilometres

B.C.’s top doctor says she’s received abuse, death threats during COVID-19 response

Henry has become a national figure during her time leading B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic

BC Liberals must change gears from election cynicism, focus on the issues: UBC professors

COVID-19 response and recovery is likely to dominate platforms

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

B.C. could be without a new leader for multiple weeks after Election Day: officials

More than 20K mail-in voting packages were requested within a day of B.C. election being called

Dozens of Canadian venues to light up red in support of entertainment workers

Local facilities among dozens across Canada to participate in Light Up Live

Most Read