BC is about to scrap the daily reporting of COVID-19 statistics, as it enters what Dr. Bonnie Henry calls a “transition period” toward lifting public health restrictions like vaccine passports and masks.
It’s the right move. Overdue, even. The province should take it a step further: Scrap the public briefings with Dr. Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix as well.
Tuesday’s briefing was the best example how neither is needed anymore – for now.
Dr. Henry and Dix spent almost an hour outlining absolutely nothing new and taking questions that were all variants of “are we there yet?” on scrapping the last remaining rules.
We learned nothing. Worse, it felt like a waste of Dr. Henry’s time, in particular.
BC has one more press conference left in it for the foreseeable future. That’s next week, when Premier John Horgan will unfurl the metaphorical “mission accomplished” banner and announce the plan to finally get back to normal – starting around spring break and stretching on from there.
After that, let's take a break.
The public could use it.
The COVID briefings are the press conference equivalent of doom scrolling – you can’t help but tune in and hate yourself for focusing on all the ways otherwise positive indicators could suddenly go wrong. What’s the worst case scenario, you wonder? And so you ask Dr. Henry. And so she tells you.
Tuesday’s briefing had a bit of that as well.
Yes, hospitalizations are down to half the rate at the peak of the Omicron wave earlier this year.
But what if we need a fourth booster dose because the variant changes or something else goes wrong in a different part of the world?
“There are many different scenarios that we could face,” said Dr. Henry. “We could face a very different virus…in which case we would need a booster dose for the broad population.
“The other scenarios that we could face, and we've been thinking through this, is a different virus that has more impact on older people, in which case only a targeted group of people might need a booster dose and that might be in the fall next year.
“There are lots of different unknowns. I think I'm trying to say that.”
And what about if things get worse this fall?
“We need to be prepared for immunity to wane again, and for us to have new approaches and adapt depending on what we see come fall,” she said.
“We need to pay attention to next fall, because we know there will be respiratory virus resurgence, and we expect, we've seen that there's a pattern to COVID as well. So we may need these additional layers of protection again as we move into next fall.”
It’s all true. And Dr. Henry’s job is to think through and prepare us for those potential scenarios.
But for now, we need to enjoy the win at the end of the Omicron wave. God knows, we’ve all earned it. We’re stressed and tired. There’s a war raging in Ukraine. We can only take so much doom and gloom.
“ I am very optimistic that we are moving to a better place rapidly and we'll have more to say about that very soon,” said Dr. Henry. “I know things like graduations, performances, concerts and many workplaces are now moving to a full in-person return to work if that hasn't occurred already.”
The pandemic has shown us we need to take it one step at a time.
That includes right now, when the next step towards relaxing restrictions will be a positive one. It’s okay to focus on the positive, for right now.
Rob Shaw has spent more than 13 years covering BC politics, now reporting for CHEK News and writing for The Orca. He is the co-author of the national best-selling book A Matter of Confidence, and a regular guest on CBC Radio.