Dr. Henry reassures B.C. about the safety of the back-to-school plan - InfoNews

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Dr. Henry reassures B.C. about the safety of the back-to-school plan

Dr. Bonnie Henry May 21, 2020.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/BC Government
May 21, 2020 - 4:00 PM

Schools will reopen to B.C. students next month and Dr. Bonnie Henry said she knows that it’s been nerve-wracking prospect for many.

“This is an approach that's being taken with considerable thought and cautiousness, and I have confidence in the approach that we have developed for schools,” B.C.'s provincial health officer said today, May 21, adding there will be strict protocols for enhanced measures infection prevention.

“Again, it fits into all of the other things that we are doing to live with this virus in a way that keeps people as safe as absolutely possible.”

Dr. Henry said that among those measures classes will have much smaller numbers, making it easier to maintain physical distances within classes. There will also be processes in place to exclude anybody who feels unwell. 

“If anybody in a family has an illness that could be COVID-19, then we are saying, ‘be cautious and keep the other family members home, as well,’” she said.

There are also contact tracing systems now that weren’t in place before the pandemic hit B.C. That means if someone tests positive for COVID -19, their close contacts will be contacted by public health and they will stay away and stay home for the incubation period of exposure.

“We know that this is going to be a challenging time for some people, and it's going to be nerve-wracking for all of us, as we get used to having these provisions in place and knowing what to do,” she said.

B.C. had 12 new positive cases of COVID-19 today, bringing the total to 2,479 since the pandemic hit.

There are now 307 active cases in B.C., with 43 people in hospital and eight in critical care or ICU. Three more people died from COVID-19, raising the total to 152 since the start of the pandemic.

While the numbers are flat today, Dr. Henry said that she thinks a resurgence is likely in the fall.

“We know this virus hasn't left, and it is circulating in our community and that's why we're doing this so cautiously and thoughtfully,” she said.

“And if we look at the modelling of what we've seen in other places and what we've seen here in B.C., there is the potential for it to start transmitting quite rapidly in our community. We've seen that in other places where you get rapid increases in numbers of people who are infected in a short period of time.”

Right now in South Korea where there's been quite a lot of transmission from somebody who inadvertently went to a number of nightclubs and spread it to potentially thousands of club goers.

“So those are the types of situations we want to avoid right now,” she said. 

Historically, particularly with influenza, it fades away starting in March or April to very low levels and stays that way through the summer.

“But we know it comes back in the following fall,” she said. “We know that is the what the pattern that we see with other coronaviruses, so chances are, we are going to see that with this coronavirus as well.”

Climactic conditions, she said, will naturally allow it to increase in in prevalence during the fall.

“I mean I would really like to think that's not going to happen,” she said.

Historical data, however, doesn't bode well.

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