What does B.C.'s future with COVID-19 look like? Deputy provincial health officer weighs in
VANCOUVER -- For parents who have been self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic and acting as caregivers as well as playmates for their children, some welcome news could be on the way.
In an interview with CTV Morning Live on Tuesday, deputy provincial health officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said that playdates could be one of the activities that's safely able to take place soon, provided families observe proper safety measures.
Dr. Gustafson said health officials have learned a lot about COVID-19 in the last eight weeks, which includes how the virus affects children. She said recent research has shown that kids appear to be at a lower risk of getting infected and are less likely to transmit the infection.
"Playdates are one of the things that can be resumed again with the appropriate precautions," she said. "Those interactions are important for our kids and they're important for the parents, and there are ways to do them safely."
Parents shouldn't be as worried about making sure their kids are social distancing during the playdate, Dr. Gustafson said. Instead, it's much more important that children do not participate if they are sick themselves or have been exposed to someone who is ill. She also added that kids probably shouldn't meet at an elderly relative's home.
However, at a news conference on Wednesday where the province announced its plans for gradually reopening, Premier John Horgan said as restrictions are relaxed, it's important to keep social circles tight, especially when interacting with vulnerable people, and to observe physical distancing.
"Here's what it could look like: grandchildren visiting grandparents with safe social distancing. Playdates with kids, again, with safe social distancing. Small numbers of friends gathering outdoors or in home, in again, small numbers," he said. "The key is only small gatherings."
Bonnie Leadbeater, a registered psychologist and professor at the University of Victoria, advises parents to take things slowly. She said expanding contacts may take a toll on children, especially those who are anxious to begin with.
“Children are going to have anxiety. We’ve told them the environment is not safe, we’ve told them that visiting their friends is not safe, so now, suddenly it is?”
She said any plan should start with adding just one family, and then expanding out, while taking care to protect the vulnerable. She also warns that young children may have forgotten the rules around interacting with others.
“I do think this has been a wet blanket on all of us, we’ve been walking around in a damp coat, and maybe the coat is beginning to dry out, but we’re not quite able to throw it away yet” added Leadbeater.
In Victoria, the Visser family welcomes news of playdates.
“For our six-year-old, it’s the socialization that he really, really missed,” said Rebecca Visser.
Visser added she’s open to one-on-one playdates, if given the go-ahead. Still, her family will take precautions to protect older loved ones. They said they wouldn't continue to have the children interact with their grandparents online.
Health officials also revealed Tuesday there have been just eight new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. This follows new modelling data that shows encouraging signs about the province's fight against the virus.
"There's very little community transmission of COVID-19 in British Columbia," said Dr. Gustafson. "We have remained at actually relatively low numbers, if you compare us to jurisdictions of similar size."
She said the numbers in B.C. are "extremely encouraging" but people need to remember that despite our success, the virus is still here.
"What that means to us now is that we can resume some of the normal activities of life, but we also need to know that COVID-19 hasn't gone away. So we have to do those things somewhat differently."
As for summer events, Dr. Gustafson said she anticipates smaller gatherings where people can maintain social distance and avoid crowding, such as going to the beach with family and friends, may be acceptable.
"Those are much safer," she said. "The summer will be the time where we as a society learn to live with COVID-19. COVID-19 is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. Respiratory infection season is going to come back."
To watch the full interview, click on the video at the top of this story.