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BC health officials warn of high case counts, missing work as Omicron variant continues

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Health officials are asking businesses to prepare for many employees missing work if they become ill with COVID-19.

In a press briefing Tuesday, Dr. Bonnie Henry said that the Omicron variant of concern is going through the population quickly and many could be missing work.

“We have a disease that is much more undifferentiated, it means that a lot of people are having milder upper respiratory symptoms that could be very similar to a cold or influenza,” said Dr. Henry.

“Our challenge across the board in the next few weeks will be dealing with high numbers of people who are off ill.”

The province’s top doctor said businesses may need to prepare for one-third of staff to be off due to illness. Workers may include educators and healthcare workers.

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Henry is asking businesses to prepare and is encouraging them to bring back COVID-19 safety protocols that were in place, referencing plexiglass and social distancing among others.

“Given this rate of transmission, the short incubation period, and the high number of people who are getting ill, we need all businesses to put in contingency plans,” she said.

She said businesses working from home should continue to do so.

While Dr. Henry is advising changes, she says she is not looking to create orders and is leaving the decisions up to the sector.

“It’s not about public health orders and us telling you what to do,” said the PHO. “This is about activating all of those layers of protection for businesses.”

“I do think it is over to the sector now. It’s not me who can order these, it’s how we need to get through this new wave together.”

Concerns around public schools were addressed as well, with the PHO saying it is important to keep schools open for kids.

“We know that schools are safe; they’re the best and safest place for our children and they are essential for their social and intellectual development,” said Henry.

She added the staggered restart this week will aim to reduce the risk of functional closures because of staff being ill.

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