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Provincial health officer looks back on early days of COVID-19

The face of British Columbia’s COVID-19 response is reflecting on the early days of the pandemic.

On March 17th, B.C. declared a public health emergency after a surge of new infections.

In an interview with 98.9 Jet FM hosts Pete Montana and Robyn Clarke, provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, called it a surreal period in time.

“We had been watching very carefully for several weeks now, what was happening around the world,” Dr. Henry said. 

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“I had been on a call earlier that day with colleagues from Ontario, from Quebec, and earlier that morning had been on a call with some of my colleagues from Washington State, and it just really had become apparent that we needed to take some pretty drastic measures.”

Dr. Henry said she was grateful that the province made the decision to declare the emergency “in a timely way,” and that British Columbians responded.

The spring was also a very uncertain time, Dr. Henry added. 

“When you’re staring at numbers going up, with the epidemic curve going up, and you don’t know how high it’s going to go or how fast it’s going to go, those are really stressful things. But my career and the careers of the chief medical officers of health across the country, these are things that we train for, things that we manage on a day-to-day basis, outbreaks and clusters,” Dr. Henry said.

COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver Island remains a model of success, with the case count remaining at 130, no current hospitalizations, 125 fully recovered, and five deaths as a result of the coronavirus as of Thursday.

Dr. Henry said here on the island, people have done amazing things.

However, while infections are declining in B.C., Dr. Henry is warning us not to let our guard down.

“We still have this virus and we know it’s around the world, still,” she said. “There are some countries that are still in that peak phase. We’re not free and clear until we have a vaccine or an effective treatment.

Dr. Henry added that we’re “learning as we go.”

“We need to keep those messages and we need to keep doing the foundational things for the coming months, and through the fall,” she said.

That includes washing your hands, keeping a safe physical distance, and “absolutely” staying home if you’re sick.  

“Those are the things that are going to get us through the next few months, as well,” Dr. Henry said. 

On the island, and across the province, Dr. Henry’s message has stayed consistent: “Be kind to each other. That’s… the best thanks that I can get.”

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