VANCOUVER -- British Columbia's provincial health officer has become a household name during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sightings of Dr. Bonnie Henry in Victoria have been as rare over the last 156 days - all workdays for the province's top doctor - as they have been exciting for those who experience them.

"The energy was cool," said Andrew Moffatt, owner of Heron Rock Bistro, of a recent appearance Henry made on the restaurant's patio.

"The whole patio was busy and the feeling was that somebody was in the room, because people were like, 'There's Bonnie Henry,'" Moffatt said.

Other Victorians have spotted Henry on the street in their city, and they have the photos to prove it.

"I was on the phone with a friend, immediately hung up, took a picture and sent it to all my friends," said runner Christie Reid, recounting her encounter with the provincial health officer.

Chau Nguyen, a nurse, has a similar story. She was in a car when she spotted Henry waiting to cross the street at an intersection.

"I was like, 'Oh my God, that's Dr. Bonnie Henry,'" Nguyen said. "I almost rolled down my window and was like, 'Thank you!'"

On Friday, Henry's burgeoning fame got an international boost, thanks to a New York Times profile heralding her as a "Lockdown Leader."

Reporter Catherine Porter, the Times' Canadian bureau chief, said she connected with Henry, despite being based across the country from her during the pandemic.

"She takes every death personally and is so personally invested and feels so personal whenever anyone contracts this disease," said Porter, explaining Henry's appeal.

The provincial health officer has even inspired some imitators.

Joanne Jenkins got a mini Australian shepherd puppy mid-pandemic. Naming the dog was easy, Jenkins said.

"I'm impressed by her, so for me, my dog is going to be Bonnie so I'll always remember," Jenkins said.

On Saturday, Henry will take a day off for the first time since the pandemic began. It's a well-earned respite for a provincial health leader who didn't necessarily want or expect to become a local celebrity.

Asked by CTV News Vancouver Island's Amber Schinkel what she makes of all the attention, Henry laughed.

"It's a little bit, I don't know, somewhat embarrassing, but it's also very honouring for me," she said.