B.C. doctors group calls on province to focus on COVID-19 aerosol transmission

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WatchBritish Columbians will be able to watch another weekly COVID-19 briefing, but without the familiar faces of Dr. Bonnie Henry, and health minister Adrian Dix. A new organization, Protect Our Province B.C., started hosting its own regular news conferences. Mary Griffin has more.

A group of doctors in British Columbia is calling on the province to re-evaluate its approach to combating COVID-19.

For the past 18-months, British Columbia’s health minister and top doctor have held weekly briefings.

But amid B.C.’s fourth wave, a group of non-partisan medical professionals formed to start a non-government briefing on the province’s COVID-19 response.

That group, called Protect our Province B.C., is made up of a range of doctors and medical researchers and on Wednesday they held their first public panel discussion highlighting how the virus is spread through aerosol transmission.

“Welcome everyone to our very first briefing of Protect our Province B.C., My name is Amy Tan, and I will be facilitating this first webinar,” said Vancouver-based family and palliative care Dr. Amy Tan.

One of the group’s goals is to get the provincial government to admit that the virus is spread through aerosol transmission.

Dr. Victor Leung, an infectious disease physician and medical microbiologist who is also part of the group, said many of the guidelines from the province are focused on battling a virus that is spread by droplets and touch, but those mandates don’t address the main mode of transmission for COVID-19: aerosols.

“This is an overly dispersed virus,” he said. “Not everyone will affect 10 people, one person might infect 80 people, while another may not infect anyone.”

Leung said the province and public health have been too slow to amend mandates to limit the spread of the virus and believes officials should focus on improving airflow in buildings and continue strong mask mandates.

Protect our Province BC is modelled after a group of Alberta doctors, who started weekly briefings after case counts skyrocketed in that province over the summer.

That group is credited with pressuring the Alberta government to implement enhanced COVID-19 measures that have started bringing down the number of cases.

Jason Woywada, executive director for the B.C. Freedom of Information and Privacy Association, said he had mixed feelings about the group’s creation.

“These groups are created because there’s a problem. The problem that is here is a lack of transparency, that the government isn’t being transparent in what they are doing,” Woywada said.

The weekly briefings will include assessments of where the pandemic is going, and feature experts from a variety of fields.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday that the province has made an “enormous” amount of information on the virus available to the public, while he defended provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s approach to the pandemic.

He says Henry is a world leader in pandemic management and she has always been committed to learning and adapting the province’s COVID-19 response.

“I encourage people to get involved in the debate, ours is a science-led strategy …  and look, even among scientists, there is a debate sometimes. That’s a positive thing.”

“We continue to adapt, listen and learn and do better.”

mgriffin@cheknews.ca

With files from The Canadian Press

Mary Griffin
The Canadian Press

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