'We cannot eliminate all risk': B.C. starting to manage COVID-19 more like common cold, officials say
British Columbia is beginning to manage COVID-19 more like the common cold, the province's top doctor said Friday while explaining major shifts in the government's approach to the pandemic.
While contact-tracing was a foundational part of the provincial COVID-19 response for the better part of two years, officials largely abandoned that tool weeks ago, deeming it ineffective in the face of Omicron's rapid spread and shorter incubation period.
They began discouraging PCR testing for most of the population around the same time, reserving limited capacity for health-care workers, seniors and others at higher risk.
Earlier this week, the government also updated self-isolation guidelines, removing the minimum length of time many adults need to stay home after catching the virus.
"I absolutely recognize this as a shift. It means we have to change our way of thinking," provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said at a news conference.
"But we are all familiar with these new measures. They're much like how we manage other respiratory illnesses – influenza, or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), or enteroviruses that cause the common cold."
For the time being, the province's recommendations largely revolve around self-management, meaning that individuals should be assessing themselves for symptoms on a daily basis. Anyone who has even mild symptoms, such as a sore throat or sniffles, should stay home, but can return to their life once they have resolved.
"As long as we are feeling well, in this new context we can and must continue going to work, going to school and socializing safely in our small groups," Henry said.
Previously, the government's guidance was for most people to self-isolate for at least five days from the onset of symptoms, or from their test date if they were asymptomatic. The five-day requirement remains in place for fully vaccinated adults who test positive for COVID-19, as well as children and youths who test positive, regardless of their vaccination status.
Unvaccinated adults who receive a positive PCR test are still expected to self-isolate for 10 days.
To help people understand the province's current testing priorities, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control's online symptom checker has been updated with a new series of questions. Website visitors can find out whether their symptoms warrant a PCR test, or whether they belong to a priority group.
"If the symptom checker advises you to get tested, then you should continue to limit your interactions with others and get tested as soon as possible," Henry said.
The provincial health officer noted that the level of transmission taking place in the province means most people are likely to be close contacts of at least one person with the virus. Many cases are mild or asymptomatic, however, particularly among the fully vaccinated.
"We cannot eliminate all risk," Henry added. "And I think that's something that we need to understand and accept. As this virus has changed, it's become part of what we will be living with for years to come."
She was emphatic that the new approach does not mean COVID-19 has already become endemic, which some infectious disease specialists believe could happen this spring, at least in higher-income countries.
"We are clearly not in a place where it's endemic right now," Henry said. "What we are doing is adjusting to the changes that we've seen from the new variant."
Health officials continue to recommend the same layers of protection that have been used since early in the pandemic for reducing spread. That includes regular hand-washing, wearing quality masks indoors, and keeping groups small.
People who are at higher risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19, such as the immunocompromised, are also advised to be extra cautious.
Unlike colds and flus, COVID-19 is also still considered dangerous enough to warrant a number of impactful public health measures. Bars and nightclubs remain closed province-wide, while arenas, movie theatres and other venues are still limited to 50 per cent capacity. Organized events such as wedding and funeral receptions are still on pause, and providing proof of vaccination is required for many activities.
While transmission for the Omicron wave is believed to have peaked in B.C. earlier this month, based on wastewater testing, hospitalizations and deaths have yet to subside.
The 15 coronavirus-related deaths reported Thursday pushed the province's seven-day average to a 13-week high of 8.29 per day. The number of test-positive patients in hospital reached an all-time high of 895 on Wednesday, though many are what's known as incidental cases, meaning the patient was hospitalized for reasons unrelated to COVID-19.
Health officials continue to strongly recommend vaccination, pointing to an ever-growing mass of "incontrovertible evidence" that it dramatically reduces the chances of severe illness and death from COVID-19. Vaccine protection also reduces – but does not eliminate – the chances of catching the virus and transmitting it to others, Henry said.
Vancouver Top Stories
CTVNews.ca Top Stories
Students trapped inside a classroom with a gunman repeatedly called 911 during this week's attack on a Texas elementary school, including one who pleaded, 'Please send the police now,' as nearly 20 officers waited in the hallway for more than 45 minutes, authorities said Friday.
As Johnny Depp's high-profile libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard wound down, Heard took her final opportunity on the stand to comment on the hate and backlash she’s endured online during the trial.
A new report says Ottawa, Vancouver and Toronto rank among the top 20 cities around the world when it comes to work-life balance.
Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino will table new firearms legislation on Monday, according to his colleague Justice Minister David Lametti. In an interview with CTV's Question Period that will air on Sunday, Lametti pointed to the advance notice given to the House of Commons, and confirmed the plan is to see the new bill unveiled shortly after MPs return to the Commons on May 30.
An 11-year-old survivor of the Robb Elementary School massacre in Uvalde, Texas, feared the gunman would come back for her so she smeared herself in her friend's blood and played dead.
For 70 years, Andre Hissink has held a grudge against the Dutch government, but this week, the 102-year-old Second World War veteran’s persistence paid off – the Dutch king granted his wish for a rare dual citizenship.
Canada has tapped into its own strategic stockpile of emergency medical supplies -- stored for a national emergency -- to help Ukraine. It has donated over 375,000 items of medical equipment and medicines from Canada's strategic stockpile since the invasion by Russia began.
Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, more commonly known as 'broken heart syndrome' or stress-induced cardiomyopathy, is an actual medical condition triggered by severe emotional or physical stress and is different from a heart attack.
After a six-week trial in which Johnny Depp and Amber Heard tore into each other over the nasty details of their short marriage, both sides told a jury the exact same thing Friday -- they want their lives back.
B.C. speedboat driver arrested with 650kg of meth 'feared for his family's safety,' he told U.S. investigators
New details are emerging after a 51-year-old Alberta man was arrested aboard a speedboat that U.S. authorities say was carrying 650 kilograms of methamphetamine between Washington state and British Columbia.
At least one building was destroyed Friday afternoon as firefighters rushed to a large fire at the vacant Pioneer Square Mall in Mill Bay, B.C.
A collision between a truck and a bicycle in Nanaimo, B.C., sent a 70-year-old man to hospital Friday morning.
A southern Alberta man who killed three people, including a two-year-old girl, could have the ability to request a release from jail earlier than his original sentence intended, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court decision Friday.
Calgary Flames fans are still coming to terms with a playoff series loss to the Edmonton Oilers Thursday night in a game that saw both controversy and heartbreak following a Connor McDavid overtime goal.
Western Canada's premiers want to reform their health-care systems by expanding services but they say Ottawa first needs to pick up the phone.
A hotly-controversial decision on whether or not to freeze base funding for police in Edmonton was delayed Friday as fallout from a dispute between the mayor and the provincial justice minister continued to rattle political circles.
A 19-year-old man is in police custody after a shooting near Rogers Place after an Edmonton Oilers viewing party ended Thursday evening.
Police are looking for a man who they say sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman on Thursday.
WATCH | New video appears to show man carrying air rifle on Toronto streets before being killed by police
A man shot dead by police officers near a Toronto elementary school on Thursday afternoon appears to have been captured on home security footage carrying an air rifle moments before the incident.
A 21-year-old Toronto man is facing a slew of charges following a suspected hate-motivated incident at a Jewish school in North York.
Toronto Pearson International is warning travellers and Mississauga residents they may notice unusual activity at the airport this weekend.
Is it unconstitutional to make someone pay to get a legal document translated into French? One of Montreal's top lawyers thinks so, and pointed out two other things from Bill 96 that he thinks the courts would most easily find fault with.
Canada's highest court has ruled that Alexandre Bissonnette, who murdered six people at the Quebec City mosque in 2017, will be eligible for parole after 25 years.
Hydro-Quebec is still struggling to restore power to tens of thousands of homes left without electricity, six days after deadly storms hit in Quebec and Ontario.
Pembina Trails School Division is confirming to CTV News that a group of students found a body during community cleanup at Ècole South Pointe School.
Winnipeg police are telling people to find an alternate route this afternoon as they are investigating a fatal crash near the St. Boniface Industrial Park.
Fifty-eight-year-old Vivian Ketchum is set to receive her high school diploma at a graduation ceremony at the University of Winnipeg next month. It is a moment that is decades in the making.
Barrett Ross says his dog Indy suffered a punctured bowel, lost a tooth and had his stomach injured when he was attacked by three other dogs.
The Saskatoon Tribal Council's (STC) temporary downtown shelter has been granted an extension to operate at its present location until April 2023 — but Tribal Chief Mark Arcand hopes to relocate well before then.
A pedestrian injured by a vehicle in Prince Albert has died.
Cyber security attacks happen every day, and as Regina Public Schools division discovered this week, no one is safe.
'Very upset': Senior housing residents plead for Sask. Housing Corporation to rebuild after winter fire
Former residents of a Carievale seniors housing complex want the Saskatchewan Housing Corporation (SHC) to reconsider its decision to demolish the home.
Premiers from western Canada met to discuss healthcare in their first face-to-face meeting in more than two years in Regina on Friday at the 2022 Western Premiers' Conference.
A lawyer for families of victims killed in the Nova Scotia mass shooting says an 18-hour delay in finding five bodies of those murdered is a sign of "deficient" policing.
A Cape Breton father is warning the public of the dangers in the area he lives after his teenager son fell nearly 40 feet over a cliff in Glace Bay.
Two Muslim sisters in St. John's, N.L., are speaking out after a man approached them where they work, screamed at them and then smacked the 15-year-old sister across the head, nearly knocking her over.
Saturday’s powerful storm left a lasting impact across Ontario as city crews continue to deal with the damage. Western University’s Northern Tornado Project reported that two EF-1 tornadoes touched down in London — and on Friday, Environment Canada confirmed it.
A London man is facing impaired-related charges after a vehicle he was driving collided with a gravel truck on Wednesday morning, according to police.
The London Police Service is requesting the public’s help with locating a person of interest after a gun was fired on Richmond Row in the early morning hours of Friday.
The Ontario Provincial Police is closing its detachment in the town of Black River-Matheson. The building is approximately 90 years old and is located in Matheson on Railway Street.
A northern Ontario man says he jumped through several hoops and dealt with red tape as he tried to launch an inflatable water park on Ramsey Lake this summer.
Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) has honoured two people from Sudbury for their rescue efforts during last year's rescue at Totten Mine.
A man, who was a referee at high school volleyball games in Guelph for more than 30 years, is facing sex assault-related charges.
The Region of Waterloo says there's a high safety risk at a Kitchener encampment and they are working with residents to prepare them for their eventual move.
Two low-cost airlines are butting heads over an agreement at the Region of Waterloo International Airport. Swoop wants to offer flights but the airport already has an exclusivity deal with rival Flair Airlines