BC Press Briefings

Many of my posts will be about press briefings; here I will describe the briefings I am talking about.

The Ministry of Health presents, via video, information about the COVID-19 pandemic in BC. They feature Adrian Dix, the Minister of Health for British Columbia, and Dr. Bonnie Henry, the Provincial Health Officer of British Columbia.

These briefings started sometime before March 15, 2020, and were usually every weekday. They eventually dropped to twice a week (usually Mondays and Thursdays), and as of late Feb 2021 are still twice a week. The briefings are usually at 3pm and usually last around an hour, sometimes longer.

There is a YouTube channel with all the briefings but it takes a few hours to get updated. When I want to watch a briefing live, I go to the CBC BC subsite a few minutes before the briefing is supposed to start and use my eyeballs to find an article about the briefing. The BC Government News twitter feed also has a link to the video.

Minister Dix usually opens by saying when the next briefing will be and giving a land acknowledgment before turning it over to Dr. Henry.

Dr. Henry gives the statistics for the last reporting period, how many:

  • new and cumulative cases
  • new and cumulative deaths
  • are in hospital
  • are in the intensive care unit
  • active cases
  • people are under active health monitoring
  • people have recovered
  • new and current outbreaks in long-term health, acute care (which I believe means “hospitals”), work sites, and schools

Dr. Henry then talks for a while on current issues, which can include:

  • exhortations to follow public health guidelines
  • announcements and/or explanations of Provincial Public Health Orders
  • explanations of why they decided on a change of strategy
  • discussions of upcoming events or changes

Next, Minister Dix takes the lectern. After giving condolences for those who have died (which he really seems to feel), he talks for a while. His topics usually include:

  • once a week, a listing of the recent and cumulative PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) which the province has purchased
  • once a week, a summary of the occupancy rates in regular hospital beds, regular “surge” beds, intensive care beds, and “surge” intensive care beds
  • once a week a status report of flu vaccinations
  • exhortations to follow public health guidelines

Dr. Henry finishes her remarks with her trademark: “Be kind, be calm, be safe.”

Minister Dix will then give a very brief summary of the day’s statistics in French.

Next, the floor will open up to journalists to ask questions. Dr. Henry answers most of the questions, but occasionally Minister Dix will jump in because he wants to say something; occasionally the question will be directed at him or be about something which is under his jurisdiction (like politics) and not Dr. Henry’s.

Some very regular questions include:

  • Q: Why can’t people visit their loved ones in nursing homes? A: because it is too dangerous.
  • Q: Why aren’t we doing more to protect our kids in schools? A: Schools are actually quite safe; there are exposures in school which reflect exposure in the community, but transmission in schools from one pupil to another is actually quite rare.
  • Q: Can’t you make an exception for X? A: No.
  • Q: What exact number do you need to see in which metric before you do X? A: We look at lots of different numbers and the trends — in BC, in Canada, and around the world — before making decisions.
  • Q: Recently, there was X instance of bad behaviour. Doesn’t that make you mad? A: Most people are doing the right thing, and we need to have compassion for everybody because we don’t always know what their story is.
  • Q: Can’t you crack down on X? A: We have enforcement officers and WorkSafeBC who enforce Provincial Orders.
  • Q: Why are all the X businesses still open? A: We are not seeing transmission in X industry when the businesses follow their safety plans.

Dix almost always gives an answer to the last question in French.