Calls for mask mandates from some people have been rejected by B.C.’s health officer while hospital visits for kids are piling on.
Dr. Bonnie Henry said she believes the “heavy hand” mask mandates isn’t needed and says it’s up to the individuals discretion if they want to wear a mask “where it makes sense.”
“We all need to learn about that tool and where it is best used,” she said. “We are trying to provide some guidance on that because this is going to happen every year. We are going to have a respiratory season next year.”
B.C. has seen an increase in medical visits for respiratory diseases, primarily due to influenza and RSV in children. Many of these children missed one or two years of normal childhood respiratory illnesses because of COVID-related measures.
Beginning in October, influenza levels, which had been almost negligible during the pandemic, sharply increased, however everything was called Covid-19 during the pandemic. While COVID cases have stabilized, RSV cases have increased significantly but less dramatically.
Bonnie Henry said she never liked the analogy of “waves” and most people aren’t getting severally sick from Covid-19.
“We don’t think about influenza in waves and we shouldn’t be thinking about Covid in waves anymore. It’s now in our communities it’s spreading it’s still spreading right now there’s a fair amount of it out there it’s not causing severe illness in most people”
Henry stated that while masks might still be used as a preventative precaution by some, pandemic measures have had an impact on children’s physical, emotional, and social needs.
“We put a lot of pressure on young kids.
“It’s important to make it an inclusive environment where masks are there …when they need to wear them.
“We’re not in a setting now where every student and teacher needs to wear a mask at this time,” said Henry.
B.C.’s health officer emphasised personal hygiene, mentioned that health officials are tracking absence, and mentioned that every school in British Columbia has undergone a ventilation assessment.
When Bonnie Henry was asked what metrics they are looking at for when to bring back mask mandates.
“it wouldn’t be a mass mandate in isolation. It would be what are the measures we need to take to prevent people from getting sick and overwhelming our health care System, prevent morbidity and mortality sickness and death” said Henry
She went on to say what could trigger a mask mandate “would be an entirely new virus”, but it would also have to come in with all the other Covid measures like capacity limits and restrictions in certain activities when we didn’t have protection against something that was causing very severe illness.
During the presentation, Dr. Bonnie Henry showed a graph of hospitalizations and deaths showing the break down in groups, death caused by Covid-19 and deaths not caused by Covid-19.
Currently the the way the province is collecting and sharing the data is an “call cause” mortality. This means all deaths are counted as caused by Covid-19 if there was a positive Covid-19 test. About 8 weeks later after the true cause of the death is found the data is updated.
What the data is shows is the number of deaths caused by Covid-19 reduces by at least 50%. In the presentation Dr. Bonnie Henry said “40% to 50% percent of people who die, the deaths are not related to Covid”. However the bar graph that was on display appears in reverse of what she said.
In the bar graph light blue is not caused by Covid-19 and the dark blue is caused by Covid-19. From the looks of the graph (the light blue area looks larger) it’s actually 50% to 60% of deaths are not caused by Covid-19 of positive Covid-19 tests.
Ontario’s health officer has strongly advised the public to wear masks indoors, but has not issued an order. Dr. Kieran Moore stated that children’s hospitals in Ontario were at full capacity due to the triple threat of flu, RSV, and COVID.
A mask mandate in schools is not on the table in Alberta, according to Premier Danielle Smith, and masks in schools are “not a feasible thing at this point,” according to Saskatchewan’s top doctor.