B.C.’s provincial health officer said Thursday it is too soon to know if our province can follow the latest relaxing of pandemic restrictions in the U.S., but we should start to learn more “soon.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised Thursday that fully-vaccinated people against COVID-19 do not need to wear masks outdoors and can avoid wearing them indoors in most places. The updated guidance, the agency said, will allow life to begin to return to normal.
The CDC also said fully-vaccinated people will not need to physically distance in most places, but masks should still be worn in crowded settings such as buses, planes and hospitals.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, however, said B.C. is not quite ready for that step yet, but more information will be coming in the re-start plan, expected after the May long weekend.
“(We) are also looking at the the the trends in transmission in our communities. And I know we spend a lot of time thinking about the day-to-day numbers, but really, it’s how do we look at the numbers over time, what’s happening in our communities?” Henry said at a media briefing Thursday.
“So those are going to be some of the factors that we are putting into the Restart 2.0 (plan) that we’re working with across governments and (with) public health input. It will have advice and direction and guidance on several different aspects of the things that we can do in our communities.”
The current restrictions will remain in place until after the May long weekend.
When it comes to wearing masks outside, Henry said, as long as people are not in big groups or not practicing social distancing, masks can be “optional.”
“So if somebody walking by you or running by you on the sidewalk, even if they come very close to you, the chances of spreading COVID that way are zero,” Henry said. “Or as this close to zero as we can possibly get.”
B.C. reported 587 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and five additional deaths as active cases and the number of hospitalized patients dropped again.
Thursday’s update brought the seven-day moving average for new cases down to 598, the first time it’s fallen below 600 since March 22.
More than 2.21 million British Columbians, representing more than 43 per cent of B.C.’s population, have now had a first dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccine bookings are slated to open to people aged 20 and up at 7 p.m. on Saturday, and to all British Columbians aged 18 and over on Sunday evening.
“We anticipate that all adults will be eligible very soon. We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program, and we will be sharing more information about that next week,” Henry said.
People need to register in order to be notified when it is their turn to book.
Henry also announced Thursday that a second person has been diagnosed with a rare blood clot disorder following an AstraZeneca vaccine.
The man in his 40s is currently recovering in hospital in the Fraser Health region, Henry said.
This is now the second case of vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenic, or VITT, that officials have seen since beginning the COVID-19 vaccine program.
Earlier this month, a woman in her 40s became the first person in the province to be diagnosed with VITT.
She was stable and receiving treatment in the Vancouver Coastal Health region.
Henry said this is very rare, but VITT is associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. So far, research shows it affects about one in 100,000 doses.