Elective surgeries, restaurants and hair salons highlight first steps of BC’s reopening

Elective surgeries, restaurants and hair salons highlight first steps of BC's reopening
WatchWhether it's spending time with extended family, going for a massage or hitting a patio, B.C. Premier John Horgan has laid out the next steps for our "new normal". April Lawrence reports.

The B.C. government is set to start allowing elective surgeries again in the middle of May as part of its plan to reopen the province during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The gradual reopening of the B.C. economy will also include certain health services, retail outlets, restaurants, salons and museums resuming some operations in mid-May. Provincial parks will be open for day us as of May 14.

The B.C.’s COVID-19 Go-Forward Strategy, unveiled by Premier John Horgan, BC Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, on May 6 will guide the province as it begins a gradual reopening of services and works on economic recovery.

“It won’t be flipping of a switch. We’ll be proceeding carefully bit by bit, one step at a time,” Horgan said.

As of next weekend, one weekend before the Victoria Day long weekend, gatherings with two to six guests are OK, but no one can socialize if they have COVID-19 symptoms.

Hugging extended family members might be OK by mid-May if the recipient isn’t vulnerable to serious illness.

Premier John Horgan said people shouldn’t travel unless they need to, but people may be able to reevaluate going to second properties later in the summer.

“I hope people will exercise their good judgment and not travel to another community to enjoy the long weekend,” Horgan said.

All of the government’s reopening plans are contingent on organizations developing proposals that follow provincial guidelines to control the spread of COVID-19.

Hotels, resorts and parks would follow in June, with some entertainment venues opening again in July, but not large concerts.

A mix of online and classroom post-secondary education is planned for September, along with classes returning for students in kindergarten to Grade 12.

Conventions, large concerts, international tourism and professional sports with a live audience will not be allowed to resume until either a vaccine is widely available, community immunity has been reached, or effective treatment can be provided for the disease.

The government has emphasized that unlike other jurisdictions in Canada that did stricter lockdown, the B.C. government chose to do a safe operation of a broad range of services designated as essential services to protect the health care system and maintain access to key services and supplies.

And many non-essential businesses did remain open if they could operate safely, such as restaurants that offered takeout.

According to the government, it is in Phase 1 of the economic restart plan. Phase 2 is in mid-May.

The target date for the start of Phase 3, which will include opening up of additional businesses and services, is between June and September 2020, if transmission rates remain low or in decline.

“We will not move ahead until it’s safe to do so,” Horgan said.

The government said Phase 4 will only be achieved when the threat of COVID-19 has been significantly diminished through widespread vaccination, broad successful treatments, evidence of community immunity, or the equivalent.

B.C.’s reopening plan comes as 23 new cases of COVID-19 were announced in B.C., bringing the total number of 2,255 cases in the province. There were also three new COVID-19 related deaths over the last 24 hours: one in the Island Health region and two in Vancouver Coastal Health region. The COVID-19 death toll in British Columbia is now at 124.

B.C. health officials have said the goal is to allow for a return of about 60 per cent of normal interactions without causing a surge in infections. 

Here are some of the details of the plan

The focus from mid-May onwards is on lifting restrictions under some non-essential services but under enhanced protocols. Some of the businesses closed voluntarily until it was safe to reopen.

The services include:

  • Restoration of health services
    • Rescheduling Elective Surgery
    • Medically-related services
      • Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Registered Massage Therapy, Chiropractors Physical therapy, speech therapy and similar
  • Retail sector
  • Hair salons/ barbers/other personal service establishments
  • In-person counselling
  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs – with sufficient distancing measures
  • Museums, art galleries, libraries
  • Office based worksites
  • Recreation/sports
  • Parks, beaches and outdoor spaces
  • Transit Services
  • Child care

The focus from June to September, if transmission rates remain low or decline, is on:

  • Hotels and Resorts (June)
  • Parks – broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June)
  • Film industry – beginning with domestic productions (June/July)
  • Select entertainment – Movies and symphony, but not large concerts
  • Post-secondary education – with mix of online and in-class (September)
  • K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September)

According to the B.C. government, there are more challenging areas of economic reopening that still have to be determined, such as night clubs, bars and casinos.

The government said industry associations will be expected to develop safe operations plans, for review, that are in keeping with Public Health and Safety Guidelines, as well as WorkSafeBC.

And until a vaccine is widely distributed, there is “community immunity” or broad successful treatments, the BC government said there will be the following:

  • Restrictions of large gathering (not >50 for social gathering NOT applied work or retail box
    stores, larger grocery stores, or malls) will remain in place for now
  • Activities requiring large gatherings will be prohibited
    • Conventions
    • Live audience professional sports
    • Concerts

International tourism will also be dependent on treatments, a vaccine or immunity.

B.C.’s reopening plan also includes core guidelines for personal self-care, managing social interaction with extended family and friends and implementing safe practices in organizations and public institutions.

A look at how organizations and public institutions can reduce transmission, outlined in the BC government's Go-Forward strategy.

A look at how organizations and public institutions can reduce transmission, outlined in the BC government’s Go-Forward strategy.

The core guidelines for personal self-care are:

  • No handshaking.
  • Practicing good hygiene: frequently washing your hands and covering your cough.
  • Maintaining reasonable physical distance when out in the community and using a non-medical mask or face covering in situations where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • If you have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19 stay at home and keep a safe distance from others until those symptoms have completely disappeared.
  • If you are at greater risk (older than 60, compromised immune system, underlying chronic medical conditions) get informed about risk, assess your own risk tolerance, think through and apply extra precautions and heightened vigilance.

The core guidelines for social interaction are:

  • A clear policy for not socializing when you have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, including coughing or sneezing.
  • Maintain regular social contact with extended family or small groups of friends – but only in small groups (between 2-6 guests) while maintaining a safe physical distance.

The core guidelines for workplaces are:

  • Actively promote and monitor personal self care actions in your organization.
  • Actively promote and implement the core measures for managing social interaction in your organizational
    setting in congregate social areas (kitchens, staff room, canteens, shared public spaces).
  • You must have clear policies to enable and ensure that individuals who have the symptoms of a cold, flu,
    or Covid-19 including any coughing or sneezing should not come into the workplace. As part of opening
    your specific settings, you should implement sick day policies for the coming twelve months that actively work
    with individual staff being off sick more often or working safely at home during these illnesses. As employers
    you must take leadership in this regard with routine screening/questions of staff for symptoms checking.
  • Require and sustain higher levels of frequent cleaning of “high touch” areas in workplaces and retail
    outlets throughout the day and availability of hand sanitizer stands at entrances or around workplaces and
  • Where appropriate and practical increase use of temporary physical barriers (such as plexiglass at service
    counters or checkouts).
  • Focus on how you will support and accommodate higher-risk populations including those 65+ and those
    with underlying medical conditions. Workplaces, retail and personal service businesses are encouraged to
    exercise greater accommodation for these age groups in terms of work space, more flexible hours of work or
    shopping (earlier, later, mid-day) or working at home options.

There are also the following additional guidelines.

For offices: 

  • Where possible continue to encourage working from home part of the
    time to reduce “contact intensity” and “number of contacts” in the work

    • Where this is not possible or in addition to working from home policies,
      enable employees to have less contacts by:
      • Using staggered shifts or work hours for individuals or groups.
      • Teams working together virtually or small team task groups.
      • Forgoing in person group meetings as much as possible.

For retail stores: 

  • Best practice for the retail sector will be open to discussion as the sector develops its proposed plans. The
    PHO is continuing to review the guidelines.
  • There are several actions the sector should think through in developing their proposed plans:
    • Ability to increase throughput of customers and reduce line-ups by opening and maintaining a higher
    number of check-outs once physical plexiglass barriers are installed between checkouts.
    • Increased or continued encouragement of on-line shopping, deliveries, and/or pick-ups to reduce volume
    of visits.
    • Increasing hours of shopping to decrease density of customers throughout the day.
    • Encourage or require utilization of basic non-medical masks while shopping in the store to reduce the
    spread through individuals coughing, sneezing, or close interpersonal contact and therefore increase
    • Use of physical barriers such as plexiglass.
    • Messaging re not shopping while sick (cold, flu, Covid-19 symptoms) and routine screening/questions of
    customers for symptoms checking.

For personal services: 

  • Hair salons, barbers, and personal service establishments will:
    • Use messaging about not accessing services while sick (cold, flu, Covid-19
    symptoms) and routine screening/questions of customers for symptoms
    checking before providing a service.
    • Manage in terms of physical distancing and reducing or eliminate waiting areas.
    • Require appointments or bookings to manage customer flow.
    • Use of non-medical masks and maintaining distance between customers while
    being served.
    • Use of physical barriers such as plexi-glass where practical.

For schools (K-12):

  • Routine daily screening protocol for all staff and students.
  • Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.
  • Smaller class sizes, increased space between desks, alternating attendance arrangements, frequent hand washing, wearing non-medical masks for group activities and sports, and limiting group sizes.
  • Clear policy for children, youth and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not coming into school or taking part in extracurricular activities and sports.
  • Planning over the summer for increased use of remote online learning, especially for high school children.
  • Early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days of international students.

For post-secondary:

  • Routine daily screening protocol for all staff and students.
  • Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.
  • Clear policy for students and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not to attend classes, extra-curricular activities, sports or work.
  • Increased use of on-line learning balanced against the need of social interaction for learning and development.
  • Early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days of international students.

For sports/recreation and camps:

  • Routine daily symptom screening for all participants.
  • Low contact sports especially those outdoors are considered safer.’
  • Identify high contact sports that should not take place during the
  • Clear policy for participants and staff who have the symptoms of a
    cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, with any coughing or sneezing not
  • Staff and participants at higher risk of experiencing severe illness
    should not take part in recreational, sporting, or camp activities.

Click here to read the B.C.’s restart plan.

Read the full B.C. COVID-19 Go-Forward Strategy below:

With files from CBC and The Canadian Press

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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