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Ignorance or Arrogance

On New Year’s eve, the PHO issued an order that stopped all alcohol sales at eight o’clock that evening. The order was in effect for that evening only and applied to all sales including restaurants. The PHO said she had been considering this action for some time and had consulted on this issue. The restaurant association says they were never consulted and, had they been, they would have recommended a nine pm cut-off. That would allow for already booked customers in the second seating at eight pm to have a glass of wine with their dinners. Instead, invoking this last-minute decision and, for the sake of that one hour, restaurateurs lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in cancellations and food losses. When asked about it, the PHO said she would not have done anything differently.

My question is: did this decision result from ignorance; not understanding how seating at restaurants operate; or, was it arrogance; I have the power and you will comply?!

This scenario is remarkably similar to the last-minute decision imposed upon the school system in July. The night before the press conference on the school opening plan, the PHO imposed the cohort system on the opening. As a result, the BCTF dropped their support for the plan and did not appear at the press conference. Almost every teacher knows the cohorts which are named as a “layer of protection” are an illusion. Cohorts have been mixed and do not operate at all out of the classroom. This imposition demonstrated a naivete about how schools operate. So, was this decision a result of ignorance or the arrogant use of one person’s powers?

Throughout the Fall term, educators and parents asked for a mask mandate at schools. Evidence is clear that masks make a difference particularly when schools have been opened in a manner that does not allow safe social distancing. The PHO has become exceptionally stubborn and refused to put in place a mask mandate for schools. Now BC is the only jurisdiction in Canada, outside the Atlantic bubble, to return to school without a mask mandate. Are we doing this out of ignorance or arrogance?

Throughout the Fall we have also seen a decrease in the information provided on schools. In fact, the PHO stopped collecting some of the critical stats on schools in mid November. Testing has also been limited. We appear to be the worst province in the amount of testing done and we tell parents when there has been an exposure to NOT have your child tested. Parents at Caulfield Elementary defied the suggestion and clearly identified a different scenario than was being peddled in the briefings. Now we have not only limited data but also briefings that are spaced farther apart and leave us completely in the dark about the current state of the virus the day before we are asked to send our children back to school. Even our national health officer, Dr. Tam, has asked BC to provide weekend daily statistics only to be defied by our provincial PHO. Knowledge gives one the power to make better decisions, but this knowledge is being withheld. Are these decisions to limit the collection and distribution of data made out of ignorance of the need or is it arrogance that the PHO knows what is best for your child?

A letter has just been released from Delta School District quoting the Deputy PHO as saying: “data indicates children are safest at school” and “additional safety measures at school are not necessary at this time”. These reflect the conclusions of her own pandemic paper published in 2007. Why does she not show the data she refers to? We shut down schools when there were very few cases in March and I have not seen any validated data that demonstrates harm to children. Does the PHO not realize that schools do not have enough hand sanitizer or wash stations? Does the PHO not realize that the highly infectious variant has arrived in BC and it spreads more quickly among children resulting in more child hospitalizations? Does the PHO not recognize the inadequate ventilation systems that exist in schools that are in serious need of updating? Is there a reason the PHO has required districts to muzzle teachers by having administrators threaten them with disciplinary action should they speak publicly about their own school? Surely the PHO is not ignorant enough to believe that nothing more can be done to improve safety at schools if the resources were provided. If not, then is it just arrogance that is driving this propaganda?

There is a petition signed by 40,000 citizens asking that winter break be extended. Parents want this to happen for the following reasons:

To ensure the 14-day incubation period following New Years’ celebrations has passed giving some comfort that students and school employees are virus free upon entering their place of employment;

To allow an up-to-date briefing on the numbers in BC so that parents can make an informed decision about their child’s school attendance;

To enable time to undertake the necessary adjustments that somebody should have been planning over the break to make our students safer in the hard-hit regions of the province.

Do forty thousand signatures make a difference? I expect it will not because this PHO has to date ignored the advice of those in the know such as the BCTF just like she ignored the advice of the restaurateurs. Or, like in the past, at the Monday briefing she will say she was not aware of said petition! Ignorance seems to have worked in the past or is it again, arrogance?

We enter 2021 with new hope that the vaccine will be the light at the end of the tunnel. However, at our current rate of vaccinating we may be into 2022 before we can truly feel safe. We are entering an incredibly dangerous phase of the pandemic with a much more infectious variant in our midst. Yet over the break we have made no adjustments to our school plan and we are still seeing delays in contact tracing to the extent that the notices are next to useless. I suggest that re-opening schools on Monday will result in a rapid upswing in our infections in the hardest hit communities. By not extending the break, we continue to place an unnecessary and undue burden upon our school employees. We deny our parents the data to which they are entitled and we place the health of our students, families, and communities at risk.

Are we doing this out of ignorance or because of arrogance?

Dr. Doug Player, January 3, 2021

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