Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry indicated a significant shift in B.C.’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, saying everyone should assume they’ve been a close contact and that contact-tracing is no longer effective.
Because of the Omicron variant, Henry said the province is treating COVID more like the common cold.
“We cannot limit all risk. It is part of what we will be living with. We can use all the layers of protection,” she said, such as following public health guidance, getting vaccinated, washing hands, wearing good quality masks indoors, keeping groups small and using the vaccine card program to manage risks.
She said we should all assume that we have been a close contact, and to self-monitor for signs of the virus every day.
As long as someone is feeling well, they can continue to go to school, work and daycare, Henry added, but everyone should have a low threshold for changing plans and staying home.
“We are clearly not in a place where it’s endemic right now,” she said. “What we’re doing is adjusting to the changes that we’ve seen from the new variant.”
A bright light of this pandemic, she added, is that children are at a much lower risk of severe illness.
“We know that things are working and we know that there are changes and we’re working hard to adapt to those changes. We are hopefully at a place where we are getting through this wave soon.”
The province is facing a lot of heat after the BC CDC quietly changed guidelines for COVID-19 isolation and testing Wednesday night with no further communication.
It amended guidance requiring isolation for unvaccinated individuals to isolate for 10 days after contracting COVID-19.
This comes after the organization changed its website on Tuesday, stating that unvaccinated individuals were only required to isolate for five days following a positive test.
Vaccinated individuals and anyone aged 17 and younger who is unvaccinated only need to isolate for five days after testing positive.
The BC CDC website now states as of Wednesday that “if you are an adult who tested positive and you are not fully vaccinated and are managing your illness at home, you can end isolation” when three conditions are met.
The conditions include at least 10 days having passed since your symptoms started, or from the day you tested positive if you did not have symptoms, and fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medication, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
The final condition is that symptoms have improved.
British Columbia reported 15 more COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday, as it saw the number of cases in hospital dip for the first time in more than two weeks.
There were 891 positive cases of COVID-19 in the province’s hospitals, an overnight drop of four, including 119 cases in critical or intensive care, an overnight increase of four.
Henry said Friday the single most important factor for someone requiring hospitalization continues to be age.
Anyone over 80 is in the highest-risk group but there is still a major risk for those over 70 and who have immune-compromised conditions, such as diabetes and heart conditions.
Henry said vaccination is still the strongest line of defence against hospitalization and severe illness.
She added that anyone under the age of 20 is still at very low risk of needing to be admitted to the hospital.
Even for those over 80 with two doses and a booster, the risk of being hospitalized is under one per cent, Henry said.