'It feels like betrayal': Vulnerable families respond to COVID-19 changes as B.C.'s top doctor defends approach
When the provincial health officer told British Columbians she was removing isolation requirements and testing for most of the population and compared managing COVID-19 in similar terms to the flu or common cold, many people were shocked and some instantly alarmed.
Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed people who are extremely clinically vulnerable, assuring them they would have access to COVID-19 testing and that they should get tested right away if they develop symptoms, so they can access treatment. In fact, she emphasized that the general public “have a responsibility to try and minimize our risk to them by doing the things that help protect us and protect others,” namely getting vaccinated and following public health orders.
For many, however, those statements were overshadowed by Henry’s discussion of the need for balance and the reduced severity of the Omicron variant in comparison to the deadlier Delta strain – particularly at a time the health-care system is struggling to maintain basic levels of care.
“It feels like betrayal, like we’re just forgotten and left to the side,” said Laesa Kim, whose kindergartner has multiple serious medical conditions and had open-heart surgery in the fall.
“I’m cautious with my child, but I still want her attending school and socializing and doing the things she should be doing,” said the Langley mother of two. “People still send sick kids to school and think it’s no big deal and then she’s home for three weeks recovering from a cold.”
Jeremy Franta is a terminal cancer patient in Delta. He hasn’t sent his daughters to school yet because most of their friends have had COVID-19 in the past two weeks and he’s terrified of the potential consequences.
“Do we send my kids (to school), and they bring it to me, they kill me? I won't care, but my kids have to live with that,” he said. “I feel the clinically vulnerable have been left behind and nobody cares. We’re left in the wind to fend for ourselves.”
MEDICAL COMMUNITY AND EXPERTS SURPRISED BY TIMING
One of British Columbia’s most respected pandemic analysts pointed out that – while testing is a useful barometer for public health officials and academics to track and assess the virus’s patterns, resistance to vaccines and new characteristics – a test does not change whether someone should or can get medical treatment.
SFU professor Caroline Colijn and her colleagues on the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group also aren’t convinced we’ve seen peak hospitalizations from the Omicron wave, and she emphasized the consequences of starting to reopen society for most but not all.
"I think we should be paying attention to unfair burdens and asking people who may be very at-risk to simply shield," said Colijn. “Impacts on those who can't work from home or those who are at risk of a more severe illness from COVID-19, I think we do have to consider that and consider that as numbers decrease they may also get concentrated in higher-risk groups."
Disability analyst and researcher Gabrielle Peters wants the public to understand these aren’t theoretical issues.
“Our individual ability to mitigate risk varies and is impacted by multiple things like poverty, the type of work you do, the housing you live in and supports you require. B.C. has failed to address any of this,” she said. “There has been an ableist bias to B.C.'s methodology for identifying disabled people's risks and addressing our needs all along. We have done our best to survive in spite of this.”
Past president of Doctors of BC Dr. Matthew Chow said while he expected the transition to endemic management of the virus, he was surprised to see it now.
“I certainly hear from some colleagues who are concerned that we’re moving too quickly,” he said. “But I'll tell you I also hear from some colleagues who say, ‘Let's get on with this, this is such a pervasive infection now, you can assume everyone’s been exposed or will be exposed,’ so there’s no point in further restrictions at this time because they’re not likely to be meaningful.”
Chow pointed out that it’s understandable and acceptable that people feel unsettled by the transition and that it’ll take time to adjust, but he believes the decision wasn’t made lightly.
“I’m glad I’m not in the shoes of public health and that I’m not in Dr. Henry’s shoes, because it’s a tough call as to when to deliver that content,” he said. “It’s become increasingly obvious the approach would have to change unless we wanted a society-wide shutdown.”
PROVINCIAL HEALTH OFFICER INSISTS GOALS REMAIN THE SAME
As she maintained the somewhat contradictory messaging of public health measures like bar closures and mask mandates while also encouraging people to socialize and characterizing COVID-19 management like other respiratory viruses, CTV News asked Henry if her goals remain the same.
She replied that they remain unchanged: To reduce serious illness and death, to preserve the health-care system and to minimize societal disruption.
When asked whether the lack of isolation and testing indicated she had given up on trying to control the virus and switched to endemic mode, she denied that’s the case.
“We are clearly not in a place where it's endemic right now. What we are doing is adjusting to the changes that we've seen from the new variant,” Henry insisted, noting that contact tracing and testing had reduced purpose with the virus spreading faster and with a shorter incubation period, and with fewer people needing hospital care relative to overall cases.
But she also continued to talk about COVID-19 in the long-term; diseases are considered endemic when regularly found in certain areas, but with low and stable hospitalizations.
“We cannot eliminate all risk, and I think that's something that we need to understand and accept as this virus has changed and has become part of what we will be living with for years to come,” said Henry.
Without a clear plan or specific advice for vulnerable British Columbians, they’re left waiting to see when their situation will be acknowledged or how long they’re expected to seal themselves away while the rest of us get closer to our normal lives.
“So many people like to peg family members with risk factors are just fearful and yes, we are fearful because we’ve seen first-hand what any number of viruses can do to our loved ones,” said Kim. “But we’re also wanting them to live life – I’m not fearful to the extent I want to keep (my kindergartner) in the house for the rest of her life."
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
The United Kingdom's former prime minister Tony Blair says Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision to invade Ukraine is an 'act of madness.' In an interview on CTV's Question Period airing Sunday, Blair said Putin doesn't appear to be the same man he knew in the early 2000s.
Ten children in Canada were found to be suffering from severe acute hepatitis not caused by known hepatitis viruses over a nearly six-month period recently, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Friday.
Russia's claimed seizure of a Mariupol steel plant that became a symbol of Ukrainian tenacity gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a sorely needed victory in the war he began, capping a nearly three-month siege that left a city in ruins and more than 20,000 residents feared dead.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attempted to reassure parents on Friday amid a nationwide shortage of baby formula designed specifically for infants with food allergies.
A national substance use research organization is warning about a new type of opioid that is increasingly being found in Canada's unregulated drug supply.
Canadians may find a lot of long faces at the pump heading into the long weekend as gas prices across the country remain high.
With the price of gas rising above $2 per litre and setting new records in Canada this year, CTVNews.ca looks at what goes into the price per litre of gasoline and where the situation could go from here.
Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam says the federal government is monitoring monkeypox cases and their chains of transmission after two cases were confirmed in this country.
The World Health Organization was due to hold an emergency meeting on Friday to discuss the recent outbreak of monkeypox, a viral infection more common to west and central Africa, after more than 100 cases were confirmed or suspected in Europe.
"Victoria is such a lively and exciting place to be in the summer, and there is a pent-up demand for people to be out and about enjoying the city," said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps.
Two people were rescued and one man is still missing after a fishing boat capsized Thursday night in a remote region of Vancouver Island.
A Vancouver Island woman is desperately searching for her missing dog, who can help with her diabetes in an emergency.
Zach Hyman scored the winning goal shorthanded for the Edmonton Oilers in Friday's 5-3 win over the Calgary Flames to even their playoff series at one victory apiece.
It's an invention that could save lives in an emergency, and was created by a Calgary high school student.
With gasoline prices hitting all-time highs, Jeff Redmond says he's planning to stay closer to home when RV camping this summer.
A 36-year-old man was charged with two counts of second-degree murder Friday after two men, both in their 60s, were killed in central Edmonton on Wednesday.
Terry Dell has been living on the streets of central Edmonton for a few months now, and he's scared.
Marineland has banned a number of people from its premises, some of whom have never visited the Niagara Falls, Ont., tourist attraction, days before the facility was set to open for the season.
Ontario is reporting another 13 deaths related to COVID-19 as the positivity rate in the province continues to slowly decline.
Here is a a closer look at some of the top priorities that are on Torontonians’ minds ahead of the Ontario election.
Quebec's College of Physicians and some top lawyers say there's lots of grey area in how Bill 96 will play out in health care -- even after multiple requests to the province to clear up confusion.
Following demonstrations last weekend in Montreal where thousands walked through the downtown core in protest of Quebec's French-language laws, students in the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community of Kahnawake are leading a walk of protest Saturday.
Quebec has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to adopt monitoring devices to protect victims of conjugal violence.
Ex-wife of Winnipeg man charged in 'horrifically grisly' death granted protection order, court records show
A review of court records paints a disturbing picture of a Winnipeg man now charged in what the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) has described as the “horrifically grisly” homicide of a young Indigenous woman in North Kildonan.
The province has declared a state of local emergency within the Whiteshell Provincial Park, and says residents in the Betula Lake area should be prepared to evacuate
A missing man whose vehicle was discovered abandoned in a water-filled field in Southern Manitoba has been found dead.
Saskatoon police investigating after reports of shots fired, man found dead behind apartment building
Saskatoon police are investigating after reports of two men being injured, shots fired and one person found dead.
Saskatoon mom pushing for in-person doctor visits after her daughter went two years with undiagnosed respiratory issues
A Saskatoon mother is sharing the importance of in-person doctor’s appointments after it took two years to figure out why her daughter was experiencing reoccurring respiratory issues.
Charleston Hughes is back with the Saskatchewan Roughriders after spending last season with the Toronto Argonauts.
While the May long weekend is known as the unofficial start of summer, oftentimes in Saskatchewan, the holiday weekend comes with cold weather.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has leased more than 110,000 sq. ft. of the former Co-operators building on College Avenue, with plans to move hundreds of employees into the space.
A Regina police dog was seriously injured during an arrest of a man charged with sexual assault, on Thursday morning.
A section of Dartmouth's Burnside Industrial Park was shut down Friday after a fire in a scrapyard triggered alerts and air quality warnings.
Some warmer temperatures are expected for the Maritimes during the upcoming May long weekend. With that, however, brings a few rounds of showers with a risk of thunderstorms.
The public inquiry into Nova Scotia's mass shooting has already cost $25.6 million to investigate the April 18-19, 2020, rampage -- and there are still about five months remaining in its mandate.
It was definitely a night to remember for people in attendance at Labatt Park on Friday evening after a reported gas leak forced the evacuation of the park during the season opener.
The OPP is reminding drivers to put safety first when they head out for long weekend road trips.
Dave Willacy was out early Friday to get his boat in the water and tuned up.
The cooling housing market has left some buyers with mortgages that can't cover the full cost of their home following an appraisal. Toronto-based mortgage broker Mary Sialtsis discusses what options these buyers have.
Here are some of the activities you can check out this long holiday weekend in Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins.
DEVELOPING | Father of deceased Cambridge boy found dead: WRPS
A man found dead in Milton early Friday morning is believed to be Curtis Hesselink, the father of an 8-year-old boy found dead in Cambridge last week.
The City of Cambridge is investigating after a mysterious foam erupted from the intersection of Fountain Street and King Street twice in the past 24 hours.
Provincial police have provided new information about the age of a young girl whose body was found in the Grand River near Dunnville, Ont. earlier this week.