B.C.’s top doctor says although the number of people in hospital and dying from COVID-19 remain at unprecedented levels, things are starting to change — and that means the province will almost certainly see loosening of some gathering restrictions next week.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said she will reveal more details Feb. 15 about how the province will move forward with its pandemic plan for gatherings and events, with current orders coming up for review.
“We are seeing some very positive signs and trends over time,” said Henry.
“What you will hear next week is how we’ll be moving forward, less about the pandemic as we get through this wave, and more about how we manage personal risks as restrictions are adjusted in step with what we’re seeing in transmission and hospitalizations.”
But unlike places like Alberta and Saskatchewan, which are dropping most public health orders including vaccine passports, Henry said vaccine cards are still serving a purpose in B.C., keeping unvaccinated people out of already stretched hospitals.
“Yes, there’s still risk that people fully vaccinated in those settings can transmit, but we also know clearly that it’s very unlikely [they’ll] end up with severe illness, and unlikely to end up in our hospitals,” she said.
And instead of dropping vaccine mandates for health-care workers, B.C. is expanding the program.
As of March 24, all regulated health professionals including dentists and chiropractors will be required to be vaccinated.
Henry says her office has been working with professional colleges since giving notice of the plan in October to expand vaccine mandates to protect those who are under a health workers’ care.
Under the order, regulated health professionals who are vaccinated with one dose before March 24 may continue to work as long as they receive a second dose 28 to 35 days after their first shot.
The order applies to 29 categories of health practitioners including massage therapists, midwives, naturopaths and nurses.
Henry also revealed the province will no longer report active COVID-19 cases and recoveries in its daily briefings, because that data is no longer accurate after changes limited PCR testing to the public.
Despite officials in Alberta and Saskatchewan announcing COVID restrictions will be lifted in the coming days, yesterday Premier John Horgan denied that B.C. would follow suit.
“People want to put COVID behind them. I get that,” Horgan told a news conference Tuesday after the government delivered a throne speech outlining its political agenda for the coming months.
“I’m at the front of that line … but we want to make sure that we don’t do it in a reckless and cavalier manner just because people are honking horns, a small minority are honking horns.”
Previously, Henry has said the current goal is to lift some restrictions on Family Day, which is Feb. 21.
In yesterday’s COVID-19 update, B.C. announced 1,117 new cases in the province and 175 in Island Health.
There are 24,372 active cases in the province, 1,338 in Island Health.
There are 986 COVID-positive people in hospital and 146 are in intensive care.
In the province, there are 55 healthcare facilities with ongoing COVID outbreaks.