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BC Declares Public Health Emergency; Bars, Clubs ordered to be closed

From the Rossland Telegraph

On March 17, 2020, British  Columbia’s Public Health Officer declared a public health emergency in BC to help control the spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.  Health Minister Adrian Dix and Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry held a news conference Monday afternoon to make statement and field questions.

Earlier today, the BC government ordered that all kindergartens and schools in BC be closed for the remainder of the year.

The declaration of a public health emergency empowers the Public Health Officer to issue binding orders orally, and she has done so.  She also has the power to enlist the aid of peace officers – police and others – to assist in enforcing orders. Dr. Bonnie Henry has ordered that all bars and clubs be closed until further notice; and that all cafés and restaurants that cannot maintain the required measures of “social distancing” must also close.  The “required measure” means that people should be able to remain six feet or more from those not in their own group.

Dr. Henry has also ordered that all BC residents returning home from any other country must self-isolate for 14 days, and if they develop any symptoms, should use the on-line “self-assessment tool” to determine whether or not they should be tested for COVID-19.

All businesses providing essential services must incorporate social distancing measures into their operations as much as possible.

Dr. Henry stressed the importance of continuing to:

·       wash your hands frequently and thoroughly,

·       keep those hands away from your face,

·       stay away from crowds,  

·       work from home if possible,

·       stay home as much as possible,

·       practice social distancing -- that 6-foot-or-more distance;

·       and, if suffering any symptoms, use the self-assessment tool.

She stressed, “All areas of the world are at risk.”

Asked what she thought about the federal government exempting US citizens from the general border closure, Dix and Henry stated that they are not in favour of closing off supply chains of food and other supplies, but they are requesting that the border be closed to visitors and tourists. “This is not an appropriate time for cross-border visits,” Dr.Henry stated.

Asked about past failures on aircraft and other conveyances, or at airports, to notify visitors and residents returning from outside BC that they are expected to self-isolate for two weeks, to stay in their homes and not go to work or anywhere else, Dr. Henry indicated that new procedures are in place to ensure that everyone is properly notified.

Asked if she had any advice about whether people should – as some articles have suggested – avoid taking Ibuprofen or other medications to reduce a slight fever, Dr, Henry had no definitive answer, as she has not seen any studies on the matter.  “But it’s plausible,” she acknowledged.   Some anecdotal reports indicate that taking mediation such as Ibuprofen to reduce  a fever can exacerbate COVID-19.

Dr. Henry referred to the other ongoing public health emergency in BC – the opioid crisis.  “It’s not over.  We have to deal with both,” she stated.

Dix and Henry agreed that the COVID-19 emergency will have dire financial impacts on many people, and that it’s “incredibly important”  to support those in need. They hope there will be support forthcoming from the federal government.

Dr. Henry summed up by listing those most at risk – people over 80, people with diabetes and other chronic illness, especially respiratory illness, and anyone with a compromised immune system, such as those recovering from chemotherapy.  And she reiterated that anyone who has come back to BC from abroad (even from just across the US border) must stay at home for two weeks.

“Be kind, be calm, be safe,”  she urged.