Friday, January 21, 2022

As Omicron dominates the COVID evolution, Province of BC shifts its focus and resets on virus response

"Getting through this pandemic is about far more than public health orders, it's about all of us taking care of ourselves, our families, our communities, doing our part every day. And we know the things that are working. We know that there are changes and we are adapting and adjusting to those changes.  We are working hard to get through this surge ...  We are hopefully at a place where we are getting through this wave again and we'll be in a better place very soon and we will see this through together" -- Doctor Bonnie Henry at today's COVID update

The British Columbia government signalled a significant shift on how it plans to manage the COVID-19 virus,  acknowledging how the spread of the Omicron variant has made some of their past tools rather pointless now, with contact tracing the first item now no longer part of the lexicon from Doctor Bonnie Henry and Heath Minister Adrian Dix.

In a Friday morning information session, the two top health officials for the most part left it up to British Columbians to manage their COVID response now, noting that if healthy carry on as you normally would, if you feel somewhat ill monitor your symptoms and isolate yourself.

The overriding theme however remains, British Columbians will navigate COVID-19 best if vaccinated as opposed to not; with the likelihood of a more unpleasant health experience still to be realized by those who still refuse to be vaccinated.

Noting that while the situation is of a high number of cases since the start of the pandemic, there has been a slowing down of new cases and hospitalizations in recent days, Doctor Henry offered up some of what health officials have  observed since Omicron became the dominant strain in the province.

Towards the vaccination program, two themes on vaccination were outlined. 

One if vaccinated you are likely to be able to avoid hospital, while those who do not have any vaccine protection are a more likely candidate for a hospital stay.

"If we look at young people who are vaccinated and even older people who are vaccinated with three doses, your risk of having severe enough illness that you need hospitalization is negligible, it's under one percent. 

So that's important, that's really good news, and even two doses reduces your risk substantially.

But if you are even younger and you don't have vaccine onboard your chances of getting more severe illness go up dramatically, particularly if you have any of the underlying at risk conditions that make it more likely"

Observing as to the rather fast pace of change related to this current variant of the coronavirus, the Doctor outlined how British Columbians should view the advice from the province now.

"As we know, this is a rapidly evolving situation with Omicron, and I know  when public health guidance changes, the changes raise a lot of questions and concerns. 

We all ask ourselves with the new or eased restrictions what does this mean to me and my family and what do I need to be doing differently as we move through this new and different wave of the pandemic"

Towards that, Doctor Henry noted how the province has adapted to managing the situation from previous pre Omicron approaches; outlining how most in British Columbia will not need to be tested for the COVID-19 virus, along with a farewell to contact tracing which is now no longer  considered a practical application.

"But, we now have a couple of things that have changed. 

One, this is highly infectious now and it has a shorter incubation period and many people will have mild or a symptomatic infections and won't even realize that they have been infected.

And we have new and better interventions including vaccines and now some treatments." 

As for how the Province will approach its response and management plan moving forward, the Doctor  outlined three areas of note: 

Continuing the call for British Columbians to get vaccinated, staying aware of our condition and symptoms through self management, while putting the focus for testing towards those who are eligible for treatment, or working or living in higher risk settings.

The provinces' Provincial Health Officer also acknowledged the shift in direction that has been outlined, noting to how it reflects a more normal approach seen during flu or cold periods.

"I absolutely recognize this is a shift and it means we have to change our way of thinking that we have been working on so intently together for  these last two years.  

But we are all familiar with these new measures they're much more how we manage other respiratory illnesses even, influenza,  or RSV or enteral virus that cause the common cold.

We cannot eliminate all risk and I think that's something that we need to understand and accept as this virus has changed and has become part of what we will be living with for years to come. 

But we can use all of the layers of protection to keep our workplaces, our schools our health care and other activities running as safely as possible

When it comes to guidance for the path ahead, the Doctor outlined how we should approach each day.

Everyone needs to self monitor for symptoms and if we believe we have some, then we should stay home.

Follow the guidance of public health officials including that on vaccination, continued hygiene practice and mask wearing in indoor settings and keeping our gatherings small. 

If feeling well in this new context, we are advised that we must continue to go to work, going to school, socializing safely in our small groups and if unwell foregoing those activities

For the Doctor, the rule of thumb to follow in this next phase of the response:

"If you're feeling unwell, stay away from others and return to normal activities when you are feeling better. 

Particularly if you have a fever, you need to stay home and stay away from others. 

But if you have a mild illness like a sore throat or the sniffles, stay home, and if you feel better the next day you can go to School, to work or childcare, this applies to children in daycare, or in school, as well as for adults.

To check your symptoms Doctor Henry pointed towards the BC CDC Symptom Checker to determine where you may be when it comes to COVID and what you should do next.

As for self isolation if required, unvaccinated residents must isolate for ten days; if vaccinated that is reduced to five days, that five day guidance in place for children as well.

The shift in focus doesn't mean the end of the Public Health Orders just yet; those measures remain in place and you can refresh your memory on them here.

The Full presentation from this morning can be reviewed here.

Updates on the Provincial response to COVID-19 can be followed through our archive page.

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