B.C.’s top doctor urges patience, caution as economy slowly reopens under COVID-19

B.C.’s top doctor is asking the public to be patient and cautious as businesses, schools and health-care system slowly reopens during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry made the comments as she announced two new deaths and 33 new cases of the virus Thursday.

B.C. announced details of its four-phase plan to restart the economy on Wednesday. In a message reflective of her pandemic approach, Henry laid much of the responsibility for a successful reboot on individual British Columbians.

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“Even as we shift into this next phase, not everyone will be ready to increase their social connection or to restart their businesses at the same time,” she said.

“Just because it is allowed … doesn’t mean that everyone must or should change what they are doing now. Each of us must use the individual principles that we have set out and guide our own actions moving forward.”

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Guidelines on expanding social groups, such as allowing small gatherings of two to six people, are slated to take effect on May 19.

But people should be cautious about who they bring into their social circle, she said, particularly if they already have regular contact with seniors or people with underlying health conditions.

“You may need to keep your circle quite small in the coming days. So before you go out and meet your friends, think about their family,” she said.

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The province is working with WorkSafeBC on templates and checklists so that various industries can reopen according to B.C.’s timeline, she added.

Not every business will be able to meet physical-distancing guidelines, she acknowledged, and some may not open their doors right away.

Those that do proceed will not need to submit an individual plan to officials, but will need to post it for the public to see. Compliance will be enforced by WorkSafeBC and public health officials through proactive inspections and public complaints.

B.C.’s COVID-19 death toll now stands at 126, with a total of 2,288 confirmed cases. About 66 per cent of those patients have fully recovered.

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Seventy-six people remain in hospital, with 20 of them in intensive care.​

Earlier Thursday, B.C. unveiled its plan to resume scheduled surgeries, after approximately 30,000 were cancelled to ensure hospital capacity in the case of a surge of COVID-19 cases.

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Surgeries are to resume May 18, and the province estimates it will take close to two years to clear the backlog.

On Wednesday, B.C. also unveiled its plan to restart the economy, which would see many sectors — including restaurants and hair stylists — resume work in “mid-May.”

The plan would also see British Columbians given the green light for small gatherings of two-to-six people, however, large gatherings will remain prohibited for the foreseeable future.

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