Note: I am going to reduce how often I post. I already don’t post on weekends; I plan to drop to Mondays and Fridays and maybe Wednesdays.
Yesterday I said I didn’t know if businesses could still make masks mandatory, This press release from the province says yes, they can still require customers to mask. Businesses can also still require presenting a vax card to enter.
Other measures which have been lifted which I did not mention yesterday:
- No capacity limits on faith services.
- Kids and teachers still have to wear masks until Spring Break, but don’t have to afterwards.
- Businesses don’t need to operate to a COVID Safety Plan any more, but back to a communicable disease plan. I have no idea what a communicable disease plan is.
- No limits on number of visitors in long-term care homes by March 18. Visitors do still need to be vaxxed and screened (which I think means they have to take a rapid test).
- Federally regulated workplaces still need to follow federal regularions.
Dr. Henry said that for health care professionals, they were in fact not doing a blanket requirement that all regulated health care professionals will need to be vaccinated. Some will be required to be vaccinated, but some will only be mandated to disclose their status to patients. Details are being worked out with the Colleges.
DrH spent a fair number of minutes on disease surveillance. There is already a disease surveillance system set up for influenza-like illnesses (ILI). (FYI, this is not just in BC, it’s a world-wide system, set up in response to the Spanish Flu.) It includes sentinel doctors who routinely send samples in to get identified. They are also going to expand wastewater surveillance, and do some targeted serological surveillance. (I know someone who had been sending drops of blood to the BC CDC for at about nine months.)
Minister Dix talked about rapid tests. BC has gotten a ton, the province has sent out a ton, and starting today, people over 50 can pick up their tests. 5.3M tests have been sent to pharmacies and 1.3M tests have been handed out (to people over 60). I found figures saying that there were 1.3M people over 60, so that suggests that pretty close to 100% of people picked up a test! I am amazed by that number, and wonder if 1.3M kits (five tests) have been picked up. That… that kind of restores my faith in humanity a little bit.
Dix talked about surgical renewal. Far fewer surgeries are getting postponed these days — 1 in Fraser, 64 in Interior Health, 1 in VCH, 0 in Northern Health, 0 in Island Health on Wednesday. Dix said that more than half of the surgeries which had been posponed from 5 March 2021 to 5 March 2022 had been rescheduled.
Remember, I am paraphrase snarkily.
Q: What do you say to the immunocompromised who are now going to be hella at risk?? A: We are all safer now due to vax blah blah blah be respectful blah blah encourage people to keep wearing their masks out of respect. But remember that this isn’t new, immunocompromised people have always had to worry about catching random pathogens when out in public. We will continue to support those people. So please don’t hassle people with masks, or raise a stink if someone asks you to mask or take a RAT before you enter their home.
Q: I’m confused, have you completely dropped the requirement for health care professionals to get vaxxed? A: No, not completely. We’re taking a more nuanced and risk-based approach. Some will need to be vaccinated to practice in certain settings. REMINDER to all you who haven’t gotten vaxxed because you were sure the mRNA was going to scrozzle your genetics, Novavax is coming! Call 1-833-838-2323 to get on the list for Novavax!
Q: What do you think of the CMO who referred to a paper which argued that the harms of punitive public health care measures may outweigh the benefits? A: That paper was an opinion piece, published on a social sciences network. But it’s true that there are always consequences to the measures we put into place and we have always tried to balance the risks and benefits. This is why we limited where the vax card was required, limited mandates and Orders to put in the least restrictive measures possible. This is why when we put in vax mandates, we focused on the highest-risk settings.
Q: We tried to get rid of masks in June, back when we had 32% with double-doses and 29 cases per day now. Now we are at 270-something cases and 91% double-doses. Given that we had to put masks back on in August, do you think we’ll have to do that again this time? A: We had to put masks on again because of a different strain. Hopefully we’re not going to get another strain for a while.
Q: Do you think there are situations where we might have to bring back masks or the vax card? A: Yeah, a nastier virus. We might have to go to a fourth dose, maybe only some people.
Q: Do you expect to see a short-term jump in cases when we stop these measures? A: We might see a slight increase, but I don’t expect a big jump because of our high immunity. That’s why I’m looking towards the fall — that’s where the potential risk is higher, and maybe we need to put other things into place.
Q: Why aren’t we removing the vax passport as fast as other jurisdictions? A: Other jurisdictions used it differently, we had a more limited set of places where it was used. We’re going slowly so that we can see the effect of not masking in those higher-risk settings. I don’t know how they don’t go batshit crazy answering THE SAME EXACT QUESTIONS over and over. I think this one has been asked at least once for the past six briefings.
Q: <vague question>? A: <vague answer>
Q: What should we expect from press conferences in the future? A: We’re going to stop the weekly press conferences, but we’ll still update the dashboard and put out a press release daily for the next few weeks. We will have a press conference before 8 April so we can give people an update on what’s happening, in advance of the vax card going bye-bye. We will transition to a weekly surveillance report after 8 April.
Q: Are medical people who were covered by a vax mandate (which was basically hospitals and LTCH staff) still covered? A: Yes. But Novavax doesn’t have mRNA, call 1-833-838-2323 to get on the list for Novavax!
Q: Why did you decide that masks are not needed in schools when most of the under 11s are not vaccinated? A: Schools are very structured environments where you see the same people every day. When the risk goes down in the community, it goes down in schools. We want kids to get to a more normal environment. However, school will absolutely stay a mask-positive environment.
Q: How are you sure you’re going to catch early warning signals when wastewater surveillance is only in the Lower Mainland and you aren’t PCR testing hardly anybody? A: We have a lot of different signals that we look at, including the pretty broad influenza-like-illnesses network that has been in existence for forever.
Q: What are you going to do for Long COVID people? A: Everybody get vaccinated! That lowers your risk. We have four clinics already, and we are still learning. Dix: And we have to vaccinate the whole world! And we need to improve mental health supports because lots of people are hurting.
Q: What are you doing to prepare for the next wave? A: Surveillance, beefing up our health care system, and improving ventilation. We need to think about better access to testing, better tests, better vaccines, better treatments. We need to support behaviours, to make things like masking empowering. We need to figure out how to make health care systems more supportive and positive environments for the workers. We need to figure out how to do sick leave right. And we really really need to address societal inequities. And we gotta not forget about the OD crisis.
Q: When can families visit LTCH? A: Next Friday, 18 March.
Yesterday I didn’t finish transcribing the press briefing, so here it is today (video, slides).
Much of the presentation was on the changes to mitigation measures, which I talked about a little bit yesterday and above.
A lot of the rest was on bragging about how well BC is doing, including how well we are doing compared to the rest of the world. It *is* true that we have done quite well compared to other jurisdictions. You could say that the case numbers are meaningless because they changed the testing rules, but unless the province is flat-out lying about the numbers, the hospitalization charts should be meaningful, and yeah BC did do quite well compared to other provinces and countries in this wave:
Dix and Henry ofc expressed a lot of amount of gratitude towards BC citizens for Doing The Things that made the pretty good results possible.
The rest of this section will be highlights that I thought were interesting and/or important.
I knew it sucked to be old during COVID-19, but damn, it really sucked during Omicron.
DrH said proudly that the actual hospitalizations have been in line with what was expected:
Me, I look at that and say, “The green dots are consistently above your worst projections, and look like they are getting worse.”
I had not seen this graph before. Note that the darkest purple is unlabelled, but it’s boosters.
The good news is that BC has very high levels of (partial) immunity. The bad news is HOLY SHIT 30% OF THE BABIES AND TODDLERS HAVE BEEN INFECTED?!?!?! And 15% of the kidlets?!?!?
Dr. Henry talked a little bit about BA.2, the darkest red.
She said BA.2 is here, but it doesn’t seem to be taking off. She also said that while its fraction was increasing, the absolute number of people who have BA.2 is going down.
There was something which confused me: Dr. Henry said that in many workplaces, masks would still be required, they just would not be mandated. ???
Over and over again, they said that mask would be encouraged in places where people were close together. They asked, basically, that unmasked people not be assholes to masked people.
+288 cases, +3 deaths, +428 first doses, +1,622 second doses, +2,908 other doses.
Currently 368 in hospital / 46 in ICU.
|first doses||second doses||third doses|
|of all BCians||89.8%||85.8%||52.3%|
Graphs of vaccination status by age over time for one, two, and three doses, from the federal vaccination page: