Advertisement

One of B.C.’s most popular TV shows has gone off the air and that’s a good thing

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix speak to the media at the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, March 4, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner

One of B.C.’s most popular television programs has finally gone off the air and that is a sign the COVID-19 pandemic may finally be in the rear-view mirror.

I am referring of course to the regularly scheduled briefings by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix (always carried live on Global TV’s BC1 and on other media outlets’ platforms). They started back in February 2020 and for the longest time, they gripped an information-starved public stunned by the deep impact the pandemic was having.

At first, the briefings were fascinating, tense and almost dramatic. As the pandemic began to alter society, the briefings increased in frequency and eventually they were held six days a week (they were eventually reduced to three, and then two days a week).

Daily case numbers, deaths, hospitalizations, ICU patients, changing science related to COVID-19, changing public health protocols, models of changing behaviour patterns – all were the focus of the relentless briefings.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Focus BC: Conversation with Dr. Bonnie Henry as B.C. enters Stage 3' Focus BC: Conversation with Dr. Bonnie Henry as B.C. enters Stage 3
Focus BC: Conversation with Dr. Bonnie Henry as B.C. enters Stage 3 – Jul 2, 2021

Read more: B.C. records 46 cases of COVID-19 as active cases drop to 602

At first, reporters were in the room (the legislature press theatre) with both Henry and Dix and the briefings sometimes ran 90 minutes or so. By late March, public health safety protocols meant reporters asked questions over the phone.

Media interest in these events was phenomenal. In March and April of 2020, there were often more than 100 reporters on the phone line. Moreover, these were not just B.C. reporters but included correspondents from around the world.

Henry herself became a major media figure. The New York Times published a glowing report of her performance early in the pandemic and she continues to enjoy a considerable depth of public support (the latest polls showed she continues to track more than 70 per cent approval).

Story continues below advertisement

Reporting on the briefings was like being in a fishbowl. Both the questions and the answers would be analyzed (or mocked, or approved) on social media websites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Click to play video: 'July 1st in B.C. is also start of Step 3 of COVID-19 restart plan' July 1st in B.C. is also start of Step 3 of COVID-19 restart plan
July 1st in B.C. is also start of Step 3 of COVID-19 restart plan – Jul 1, 2021

Read more: COVID-19: B.C. businesses gear up as pandemic restrictions relaxed

By my calculation, about 3,000 questions were asked by reporters during this show’s run. That is a heck of a lot of questions about essentially one topic (I asked many of them; there were 210 briefings and I covered every single one of them).

Nevertheless, all good things must end. After peaking in case numbers and hospitalizations in early April, our COVID-19 numbers have steadily dropped as our vaccination rate climbed very quickly.

When it was apparent, near the beginning of the pandemic, that the briefings had become something of a phenomenon with an almost cult-like following, I wrote in this space way back in March 2020 that as popular as they were we should be wishing an end to them as soon as possible.

Story continues below advertisement

“I hope this new show does not run for much longer,” I wrote. “When it disappears from the airwaves, it will be a sign that we have finally flattened the curve.”

It took a while (well, 15 months anyway) but we have reached that point where the briefings are no longer really needed. The information that formed the core subjects of the briefings will continue to flow, but without the show’s two stars in attendance.

Click to play video: 'B.C. moves to step 3 of its COVID-19 recovery plan' B.C. moves to step 3 of its COVID-19 recovery plan
B.C. moves to step 3 of its COVID-19 recovery plan – Jun 30, 2021

Read more: B.C. moves to Step 3 of its COVID-19 restart plan on July 1. What will you be able to do?

Of course, the show may well return if the Delta variant somehow takes hold as it has in some other jurisdictions. However, our high vaccination rate, particularly in the younger age groups that have the highest infection rates, makes that scenario somewhat doubtful.

Story continues below advertisement

So it appears to be the end of an era. And it is ending for all the right reasons.

Keith Baldrey is the chief political reporter for Global BC.

Sponsored content