Watching the fight against Covid in this province is akin to watching a comedy of errors. Today we saw a record number of cases, but everyone now knows that these numbers are simply false. Testing stations were closed without notice, restrictions on the eligibility to be tested have been put in place, and we do not have the capacity to do any more than 20,000 tests! When testing stations were closed those with appointments were not even notified---which, with the use of current technology, would have required a simple push of a button!
And look at the vaccine situation. Every other province can ramp up their breadth and scope for providing boosters. The system BC has put in place leaves thousands of booster appointments going unused and even some open vaccine being wasted! Yet we have a huge demand for boosters but because we have such a regimented system, we seem unable to pivot and allow walk-ins or prioritized waiting lists. Other provinces have opened the age to eighteen and the gap to three to five months. They are getting critical boosters into arms quickly, but BC seems incapable of doing so.
Look at the results of this incompetence. You would think a first responder would be prioritized. But not the case. As a result, in one fire hall alone 6 of the 7 members are infected because they were all denied access to the booster. Yet we have appointments going unused. Think of the consequences of understaffed fire halls! T
The PHO states that those with Astra Zeneca were to be prioritized. Remember these individuals followed the PHO’s recommendation to get the first shot available. But they were not prioritized. I know: a member of my family who had two Astra Zeneca shots tried to get a booster, was denied and now her whole family has Covid. And they are not in the case numbers because they were not eligible for testing and did their own testing with RAT’s obtained in the US because our PHO won’t release those provided to us by the Federal government. We are not being told the truth!
And of course, this is more incompetence. In Nova Scotia they have handed out free, almost two hundred thousand Rapid Antigen Tests to their citizens. Our plan has been to store the tests in warehouses where some expire without being used. We need competent leadership that knows how to use supplies efficiently, that knows how to create a competent vaccine system and that can pivot on a moment’s notice. Five-hour line-ups, unused appointments and unavailable RAT’s just don’t cut it!
And now we are about to experience even more incompetence as the PHO pushes forward with a plan to open schools for in person learning next week. Make no mistake about it, schools should be open, just not next week. Only one third of the children have been vaccinated. Probably only a similar number of our teachers have been given the opportunity to get their booster when we know the booster is critical in the fight against Omicron. We also hear that children have less severe symptoms but tell that to the New York parents who have seen pediatric hospitalizations rise by a factor of four! We need to protect our children by ensuring everyone in the school system has access to an N95 mask, by mandating that every school worker be vaccinated while we provide boosters for those that have not received them yet and by offering an online learning option to any child who wishes to be away from the classroom during this stage of the pandemic. We need to get our five to eleven year old children vaccinated. These things take time.
So, schools should open next week as vaccine clinics to get shots into kids and boosters into school personnel. We need to use the next week to enable the system to amalgamate and enhance the on-line learning programs that exist and make them available to students whose health is compromised or to those who fear being in a classroom where they are vulnerable to infection. This time could also be used to distribute effective masks and rapid antigen tests to schools, to improve ventilation in classrooms, and to develop strategies with school workers that will reduce the risk of spread.
Let’s be clear, if schools open next week, they will be the super spreader of all time. Children will be infected in large numbers, they will get sick, and some will be hospitalized. Unvaccinated teachers will get seriously ill and other teachers without boosters will also get sick and be unavailable for work.
We cannot accept this ongoing abandonment of our children and our educators. We cannot accept the inability of our PHO to pivot and to prioritize and provide those things like RAT’s and boosters that so many other provinces are doing. We cannot accept the ongoing deception of incomplete data, unavailable and limited testing, and unnecessary pressures placed on the heath care system. We need to employ competent leaders who are prepared to be more proactive than reactive in their fight against the virus.
We need to be guided by unlimited competence!
Doug Player, December 28, 2021.