There is finally a mask mandate in Surrey Public Schools for students in grades 4 to 12. With our rapidly rising numbers and the variants going wild this is fantastic news. But let’s be clear: this should have been put in place by the PHO in September and barring this, the Superintendent and Board should have had the courage to step forward and protect the students a long time ago. But this is still a significant action because there is finally a chink in the armour of stubbornness for which the PHO has become noted. It is now time to demand that the Government require the PHO to follow the precautionary principle rather than continue with her reactive manner that has brought about the failed human experiment in BC.
Requiring a mask mandate confirms that the rest of Canada was right when they put a mask mandate into their school systems. They understood that schools are vectors of community spread and that masks work. If the mandate is right for Surrey, it is right for every School District in B.C. I believe that every child in the province is worthy of the protection that a mask is bringing to the students of Surrey. The PHO needs to extend the mask mandate province wide. Put the precautionary principle to work.
The second and most obvious place to apply the precautionary principle is to our seniors. A recent study undertaken in our own province brings into question the extension of the second shot for seniors from 21 or 28 days to 120 days after the first vaccination. We know that our seniors are most at risk of hospitalization or death from this virus. The 60plus population account for over 95% of Canada’s deaths from Covid-19. With this knowledge, why are we involving our seniors in this human experiment especially when at least one study calls this methodology into question? The PHO says we will follow this closely and if we need to change direction we will do so. This is the reactive state that brought us the Surrey mask mandate, not the application of the precautionary principle that should have put the mask mandate in place in September. Let’s not experiment with our seniors in the same way we have been experimenting with our children.
Jorgan Fritz, an immunologist at McGill university points out that the first dose wanes much faster than the two doses and that waning is “clearly high” in the elderly. Studies out of the UK suggest that the second dose is crucial to get the full benefit of the vaccine for the older population. With the higher danger of the variants, the second dose becomes even more important particularly to those over 60 years of age. Preliminary results of a study in our own province also raise concerns about the long interval for seniors. Just as has happened with the mask policy and, with this knowledge, it is time to adjust the vaccine policy and apply the proper vaccine interval protocols to our seniors. Rather than giving vaccines to restaurant employees in West Vancouver where there is no outbreak, a second dose vaccine should be allocated to our vulnerable seniors. We need to stop this human experiment and exercise the precautionary principle.
The third area to apply the precautionary principal is in our current strategy of loosening restrictions. We are currently the worst province in Canada for cases per capita even with one of the lowest rates of testing. We are the worst jurisdiction in North America for the growth of the P1 variant. How on earth can we consider this to be the appropriate time to loosen restrictions? Do not allow religious assemblies, do not open up LTC homes, and do not expand sports any more than they already are. We need to get these numbers under control while we ramp up our vaccine programs with the right priorities.
The precautionary principle would suggest we do exactly what we did last Spring when we bent the curve. Last spring, we were doing better than anywhere else in the country. We have now dropped to the worst in country. Our leadership must take some responsibility for this state-of-affairs. With the mask mandate, they have finally shown that they will adapt, so it is now a time for a much larger pivot. The pivot must be moving from reacting to circumstances to taking a pro-active approach to our deteriorating situation. While it is clearly the wrong time to relax our restrictions, it may be time to be pro-active by moving to a limited lockdown.
We learned last year that a lockdown held our cases to a minimum. Perhaps reconsidering how to socially distance in schools through partial attendance or re-examining those activities that are causing a dramatic increase in cases in our younger adult population are in order. The variants pose a clear and present danger to every community in the province, and we need to face these circumstances head on. In short, we need the PHO to pivot from relaxing restriction to a much more precautionary approach which considers lockdown procedures that protected us last spring.
We should applaud the move to a mask mandate in Surrey schools. Now it is time to act much more decisively and quickly. The mask mandate needs to be extended to a provincial mandate. The interval between shots for seniors needs to be reconsidered. The relaxing of restrictions needs to be halted. The vaccine and testing efforts need to be re-doubled. And most importantly the precautionary principle MUST be applied to every decision made.
Our worsening circumstances that moved the PHO away from her stubborn refusal to mandate masks now dictate that we must not become locked into any specific policy. The virus mutates and we must adapt. Now is the time to adapt.
This small chink in the stubbornness armour must be opened much further by adjusting our approach to meet our worsening situation.
Doug Player, March 28, 2021.