We seem to be living in an alternate reality in BC. Our situation is the worst in Canada on a per capita basis. Look at our statistics. We are averaging more than 1000 cases a day. Our positivity rate is a massive 10.7% and as high as 17% in Northern Health! The more infectious variants are now the dominant form of cases with the most dangerous P1 showing exponential growth. Our number of P1 cases is second only to Brazil. Our leadership is hoping the vaccine will bail them out because they have lost control of this virus. This is not surprising when we look at the approach the Government and PHO have taken.
The PHO announced that “this is the hand we have been dealt.” Really? This is the hand that the PHO created by their own decisions. Whistler is a classic example. The PHO knew that Spring Break would lead to a spread in the community, and they also knew the P1 variant was in the community. But the PHO refused to shut the ski hill down until after Spring Break. Then all those that travelled to Whistler returned home. Now we have the worst P1 variant situation in North America with this dangerous variant throughout the province. This is not “the hand we were dealt”; it is the hand that our PHO and government created!
The PHO also said that first responders are having “low rates of transmission”. This is the same line she falsely says about schools. Perhaps she should try that line on the Whistler Fire Department. The have at least 6 and more likely 12 of their firemen who have contracted the virus. One of them is in intensive care. The situation is so bad they are asking North Shore fireman to volunteer on their days off to staff Whistler’s Hall. Last week both the North Vancouver District and the Vancouver District fire chiefs were pleading for the men and women of their departments to receive the vaccine. These first responders cannot work from home! Yet they are denied the vaccine. And tonight, we find that Whistler is being rewarded for their bad behaviour: the PHO has decided to put vaccinating essential workers on the back burner and vaccinate every resident of Whistler. Our PHO and government are reactive rather than proactive resulting in the worst pandemic leadership in the country.
The PHO continues to say schools are safe. This is insane. Exposure letters are sent out in ever increasing numbers, yet our teachers cannot get a vaccine. Last week they lined up to get the vaccine that was left over in various centers but because they were teachers, they were denied the vaccine that was available. What kind of a message does this send about the value we place on teachers? How is it that workers in Earl’s restaurant in West Vancouver were prioritized for the vaccine over fire men and women and school staffs. It makes even less sense with that restaurant having been shut down by the PHO.
Schools are not safe, and many parents know it. The children are now the second highest rate of infections of our age groupings. They are often asymptomatic, but they are spreading the virus among one another and when they go home. We will never control this virus until the PHO accepts what every other jurisdiction understands; that schools are vectors of the spread. Ontario moved all students on-line last week and yesterday New Brunswick did the same. We are endangering students and every school staff member as long as we continue to believe schools are safe. One report last week indicated that a teacher had caught the virus at school and taken it home where it infected her spouse. The spouse died! How is this alright??
As I see it, we need to either vaccinate our teachers and school staff immediately, return to last spring’s model of face-to-face class only for children of essential workers or close schools. We could even close schools today for the summer holidays and then return in July and August. The advantages are obvious. The vaccine would have been deployed, in the end students would miss no school time and the warmer summer weather is a more hostile environment for the virus. Clearly there are other solutions that protect teachers and children much better than the do nothing model our PHO is employing. The only difference between BC and Ontario or New Brunswick is that we are in much worse shape with two variants running wild. Yet the PHO’s in the other two provinces have closed schools. BC needs better leadership and needs to deal with the school issue now before more people suffer from the infection.
The PHO stated: “the virus is adapting”. She is absolutely right! The trouble is we are not! Instead, she simply says we have measures in place that we know will work. They only worked last spring when we combined them with a much more dramatic shutdown. Our numbers are showing that the current circuit breaker is faulty. Half measures do not work. Targeting restaurants, gyms, and places of worship while malls, ski hills and other retail remain open is absurd. We need to make hard decisions that affect a broader range of the economy. We can no longer accept the philosophy that we need to “learn to live with the virus”. The PHO and Government need to broaden the lockdown while revisiting their vaccination priorities.
We learned recently that one-third of those who contract Covid-19 will suffer neurological issues for months and perhaps years after recovery. This is alarming and our current PHO’s policy of denying the vaccine to essential workers including teachers and fire personnel is putting everyone of these individuals at risk of long haul Covid-19 health effects. This is even more unethical when one considers that our PHO, who can isolate in an office only to show up at distanced briefing, has availed herself of the vaccine.
UBC Professor, Sarah Otto, sounded the alarm about the variants in January. Her modelling has proven to be completely accurate, yet, in spite of writing to both the government and the PHO her warnings have been totally ignored. More recently she said: “the publicly reported numbers are misleading the public into thinking that there aren’t that many active cases right now of the variants but there are”. At the same time the Tyee consulted four medical experts asking why BC is in such terrible shape. The Tyee said that these experts “attributed BC’s missteps to a blend of wishful thinking, poor data, shying from hard decisions and ignoring independent models and reports that correctly foretold the variant crisis.” What a condemnation!
We need much better leadership in this province. We need to protect our population by taking much more drastic action. People are still dying. Younger people are getting very ill and THIRTY PER CENT will suffer terribly for a long period of time. We need to follow the lead of other provinces who are less worse off than we by locking down until we have the variants under control.
Our PHO and government need to stop living in an alternate reality!
Doug Player, April 11, @021