After BC health officials reported on Monday that 269 new coronavirus cases had been confirmed since Friday – including the single-highest one-day total since the start of the pandemic – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry spoke about the prospect of re-tightening restrictions to levels similar to those in place when the pandemic began.
Asked if she had a time – or case – limit that would determine what further action she might take, Henry responded no such time limit is in place and that “there’s not one thing.”
Instead, “what we’ve tried to do, and what we’ll continue to do is look at where we are seeing transmissions happening, and we do that in public health,” she said. “We’ve seen it in certain settings.. and we added additional measures, engaged with the people who work in that industry, and we’ve shut down certain [businesses] when they have not been able to make those safety standards, so it’s the same. We will approach it in the same way and take additional measures and adjust and modify as we need.”
Simply shutting down, she said, “is not an answer to things.”
Instead, “what we need to do is figure out how to do all that we want to do in our society safely for the next year – maybe longer.”
So with current coronavirus case numbers at levels not seen since the spring, what’s different between now, and the early days of the pandemic, back in March and April?
“There’s quite a lot different now than in March, when we took the actions that we did,” said Henry. “We know a lot more about the virus, we know about how to find people, we know about how it’s transmitted, we know that the measures that we take worked. If we look at the outbreaks that we’ve had, for example, when we detect people quickly, when we monitor quickly, and when we put in place quickly the measures, we’re able to stop the transmission.”
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Back in March and into April, she continued, “we didn’t know how much was circulating in the community, we didn’t know how to best manage in places like long-term care, we didn’t know the settings that we were going to see transmission in.”
Now, however, measures that are in place can “help us work together to open up our society, our economy in a safe way,” she said.
These measures include things like requiring that every business that’s open has to have a COVID-19 safety plan.
Then, “we’re here in public health to find where transmissions are happening, and to take the measures that we need to try and reduce those, and we will continue doing this,” she said.
At the end of the day, “we need to learn that this virus is going to be with us, and we need to continue to be on our guard,” she said. “We need to be able to manage clusters, manage outbreaks in our communities like we do with other viruses, and that’s what we need to focus on now.”