COVID-19 infections, driven by the Omicron variant, are exploding across Canada, including British Columbia (BC). The province recorded five consecutive records for daily infections last week, peaking with more than 2,500 cases on December 25. The 7-day moving average of cases in British Columbia more than doubled in one week.
The only reason new records aren’t set this week is because British Columbia has maximized its COVID-19 testing capacity. Young people with symptoms were told not to look for PCR tests. “We will not see the increase in the number of cases that we would have seen if we had not reached this testing capacity,” said Caroline Colijn, holder of the Canada 150 Research Chair in Mathematics for Evolution, infections and public health at Simon Fraser University. Global News. “Unfortunately, it will be difficult to interpret the data in the coming days and possibly the weeks to come.”
In the face of this dire situation, familiar talking points are being repeated by the political establishment to minimize the crushing of infections.
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix’s statement earlier this month that the focus should be on the Delta variant, instead of the more transmissible and immune Omicron variant, was also predictable as dangerous and irresponsible. It follows a pattern of deviation, lack of transparency, refusal to follow and recognize scientific developments and focus, above all, on the need to keep non-essential schools and businesses open in the face of the thousands of deaths, which were hallmarks of British Columbia’s pandemic response.
The homicidal pandemic policy, led by Trudeau’s liberal federal government and implemented by provincial governments of all stripes across the country, bears primary responsibility for the rise of Omicron himself.
The provincial government’s New Democratic Party (NDP) management of Omicron is the standard response in BC’s pandemic manual. In March, British Columbia suffered a devastating wave of the Brazilian variant Gamma, sparked by a massive outbreak at the international ski resort of Whistler, which local health officials exacerbated by refusing to shut down until the day after the end. spring break. The resort, which has a revenue-sharing agreement with the province, has remained open, with no restrictions on dining and entertainment. British Columbia’s chief public health officer Bonnie Henry blamed the local homeless workforce for the outbreak. Consistent with the refrain of blaming sections of the public for any failures in public health policy, NDP Premier John Horgan has said young people are “blowing the air for the rest of us.” Government or public health officials made no mention of the cramped housing conditions most workers at the complex faced, which was likely a major driver of transmission.
Summer saw a tragic repeat of spring, with the emergence of another dangerous subvariant, AY.25. The reckless summer reopening pursued by the NDP government of British Columbia and the far-right United Conservative Party government of Jason Kenney in neighboring Alberta has resulted in large-scale epidemics in the Delta delta. interior and northern British Columbia and a devastating increase in cases that have overwhelmed hospitals in Alberta. .
The BC Center for Disease Control (BCCDC) Weekly Public Variants Report initially included a mysteriously labeled AY.X variant that was growing rapidly and outgrowing the original Delta line. After a delay of several weeks in July, the sequences were finally submitted to GISAID, a global science initiative and lead source established in 2008 that provides open access to genomic data from influenza and coronavirus viruses. The sequences revealed that the line was primarily the AY.25 subline. This was eventually included in the report on the public variant in October, after Saskatchewan health officials admitted they identified it as having a transmissibility benefit.
The lack of transparency applies to all areas of the BC pandemic response, not just the sequencing and disclosure of variants. The province stopped sharing healthcare worker infection rates last year, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), and then denied doing so. Pressed by local media, BC provincial health worker Bonnie Henry admitted the province had indeed stopped sharing this key information, citing the data as “too sensitive to share.” In the spring, leaked reports showed that the BCCDC had deliberately withheld granular data on the local infection rate, despite its claims that it had not collected this type of research.
The NDP government has also been deliberately opaque in recognizing transmission in schools. Given the central role schools play in freeing parents from their childcare responsibilities so that they can return to work and generate profits for big business, the pro-business NDP’s determination to keep them open at all costs is hardly surprising. Unlike other jurisdictions, outbreaks do not have an established definition in British Columbia and are reported at the sole discretion of the local health authority.
As a result, only a handful of outbreaks were reported during the 2020-21 school year. But this policy obscured the real reality. For example, at Earl Marriott High School, there have been at least 47 cases among students in the days leading up to Christmas in several years. The gravity of the situation was only brought to the public’s attention when the local superintendent released the information, while the Fraser Health Authority said nothing.
Data released in May this year revealed that there were at least 21 different cases of school transmission in a single school district, School District 43 Coquitlam, over a two-month period, from January to March, despite the data. collected between the second and third waves when community transmission was at its lowest level since the previous spring. The report officially refers to cases of school transmission as clusters, but these are loosely defined by the province. Any transmission incident between two or more people is classified as a cluster. As with Earl Marriott, this defining system is able to precisely mask the number of students and staff who are infected.
Then there is the issue that has earned the province the most international notoriety: airborne transmission. The NPD and its senior health officials refuse to acknowledge that the main source of transmission of COVID-19 is through aerosols, tiny particles that can float in the air like smoke for long periods of time, even though it does. is the scientific consensus. Henry said the problem was a “storm in a teapot” in July 2020 and continues to this day to insist that droplets are the primary form of transmission of the virus. This dogma continues to be repeated at the highest levels of public health in British Columbia, with Assistant Public Health Administrator Reka Gustafson, Vancouver Chief of Coastal Health Patricia Daly and BCCDC Medical Director Mel Krajdenl refusing to publicly declare aerosol particles as the primary engine of transmission.
A report released in the spring and written by researchers at the University of Oxford specifically called out the province, saying: âSince the very beginning of the pandemic, British Columbia [sic] based her prevention measures on an explicit theory of transmission of contacts, droplets and passive vectors, “and noting that” Bonnie Henry seems at least in part motivated by the urge to allay panic and maintain calm ” . Well-respected University of Colorado chemistry professor Jose-Luis Jimenez described British Columbia’s attitude towards aerosol transmission as “one of the most backward on the planet.”
The B.C. government’s pandemic record over the past two years has been among the most reactionary, pro-business and anti-worker in the country. The BC NDP has repeatedly insisted on protecting businesses. Indeed, Horgan and his ministers regularly tweet statements touting the province’s credit rating, while refusing to recognize workers’ rights to a safe workplace. The pandemic has shown that the NDP’s claim to be a pro-workers party is laughable and without any merit.
To save lives and end the pandemic, everything depends on workers in British Columbia and across Canada forming grassroots committees fighting to eradicate COVID-19. This should include a comprehensive program of public health measures including mass testing, isolation of infected people, contact tracing, provision of high quality masks to guard against airborne transmission and vaccination. massive. It should also include the immediate shutdown of all non-essential businesses and in-person learning with full compensation for all affected workers until community transmission is reduced to zero as part of the global initiative to eliminate COVID-19.