Non-essential services need to plan for how to re-open safely as the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic flattens in B.C., Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday (April 21).
The provincial health officer made the comment while answering questions about B.C. opening up some services that have closed due to COVID-19 risk. As of Tuesday, there were 596 active confirmed cases of the virus in B.C.
While health officials have repeatedly said restrictions will remain fully in place for April, and are unlikely to loosen in May, Henry said businesses need to get ready to figure out how – and if – they can re-open in the “new normal” that B.C. will live with until a vaccine is developed.
Although most health-care providers, including dentists, have been deemed essential amid the pandemic, many have shut their doors as well or taken to telehealth, as in the case of some physiotherapists. Personal services, including spas and salons, have been closed in B.C. since March 21.
“We need to do it in the context that recognizes that we are at risk as a community,” Henry said.
Some of the new measures could include not having patients or clients sitting all together in the waiting room, she noted, as well as proper hand hygiene and plexiglass barriers.
“We may not be able to see as many people in a day but we have to do it in a way where we have the appropriate protections in place.”
The key to stopping outbreaks will be staying home when sick, Henry reiterated, whether it’s staff, patients or customers.
“A couple of outbreaks we have had recently have expanded because people have not paid attention to even having mild illness,” she said.
Staff working in client-facing roles where full physical distancing is not possible will have to take even more precautions to limit their contacts outside the workplace.
“If I’m working in a higher-risk environment… then I need to still be vigilant at home that I’m not having lots of connections, because I’m more likely to get sick, more likely to bring it into my practice or bring it back into my family life,” Henry said.
That balance will have to be maintained until a vaccine is created – something that could take more than a year.
Henry said when the vaccine comes, health-care workers, seniors and other vulnerable groups will get priority. In a poll released Tuesday by Research Co., 73 per cent of British Columbians said they would get the vaccine after it was developed.
“We do have plans across the province for mass vaccination clinics,” she said.
“I would not see us having mandatory immunization for this.”