"Our goal is to mitigate the impact of this virus."
That's B.C.'s top doctor commenting on what British Columbians must to do prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the province. Now, she has ordered all B.C. businesses to have a COVID-19 safety plan in place.
As daily case numbers of the virus continue to rise in B.C. due to the Omicron variant, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing Friday (Jan. 7) that she will work with WorkSafeBC to enforce the new order.
The plan will include employees working from home when possible, practicing physical distancing, and keeping staff separate from customers. The order is specific to industry and businesses and does not apply to child care, K-12 schools or post-secondary education.
"Earlier this week, I spoke as well about the importance of businesses reactivating the COVID safety plans," she said.
"That was a strategy that we used very early on in this pandemic, to really develop specific strategies for each specific business or industry. And these worked."
Henry noted the business plans helped the province get through the "last number of waves" of COVID-19.
"It becomes more and more important as we're seeing that increased transmission in our communities. And the safety plans are measured to allow you to keep operating in the face of a significant portion of workers who may be unable to come in because they are [ill]," she highlighted.
When will B.C. get more COVID-19 rapid tests?
Henry also said rapid tests promised by the federal government will begin to arrive in B.C. over the next week, more than 18 million through January and February.
First to arrive will be distributed to symptomatic health-care workers in acute care, then next week, those in the K-12 school system.
“There are many different types of tests that will be arrived some of them will be suitable for self-administration, the lateral flow tests and the at-home test. Those are the ones that we have been waiting for for some time,” Henry said.
“Eventually, as we get more available tests, [we hope] to be able to support families to do the tests at home on symptomatic members of the family of the children to determine whether they should be going to school or not.”
Health Minister Adrian Dix, at the same press conference, explained the current inventory of tests in the province is 1,139,113, but half of those are not suitable for self-administration at home.
Approximately 600,000 rapid tests of the over 18 million coming from the federal government will arrive in the province over the coming days.
"We are very obviously pleased the federal government has made this effort, but they are not here yet," Dix said.
Henry called the tests a limited resource and a "precious commodity," explaining not everyone needs to get tested. People with mild symptoms like runny noses or a cough who have been interacting with other people “very likely” have COVID, she said.
Those individuals are asked to stay home for five days, and look to the BCCDC website for information on how to self-assess and report if you do an at-home rapid test.
“For most people we are seeing now with this new strain, the onset of illness is within a very short period of time after exposure. So about three days, and the illness is mostly mild if you're vaccinated and you have that level of protection. And it tends to go away within three to five days,” Henry said.
She said COVID-19 continues to evolve and “surprise.”
“We cannot predict with certainty exactly what is going to happen, we’ve seen that as things have evolved over the last two years,” Henry said.
“We can and we must make educated or informed guesses or decisions based on the imperfect information we do have. It's not mathematical certainty, but it is based on the best information that we have.”
Canada’s Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said it’s time for the federal government and provinces to consider making vaccinations mandatory across the country.
With nearly every jurisdiction in Canada battling a steep rise in Omicron cases, the minister described the health-care situation in Canada as “fragile,” its people tired and the health-care capacity of the Canadian Armed Forces as limited.
With files from Stefan Labbé