'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
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.