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“It’s hard to say when,”: Dr. Bonnie Henry on possible lifting of restrictions in NH

Dr. Bonnie Henry has no timetable has been set as to when circuit breaker restrictions within the majority of Northern Health will be lifted.

Indoor sporting events currently remain at 50% capacity while personal gatherings are restricted to fully-vaccinated people.

In an interview with Vista Radio, Henry stated they are keeping a close eye on a couple of factors.

“It’s hard to say exactly when. It will be following things like the vaccination rates and we saw in some parts of the north like around Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii where the vaccination rates are high enough that the virus doesn’t take off.”

“We need to see that. Getting immunization rates up, getting our hospitalization down so we are not straining the system so much – those are the things I am watching really closely in Northern Health.”

According to Henry, 109 people have been airlifted out of hospitals in Northern Health to other parts of BC.

Of those, 97 tested positive for COVID-19.

According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, only the Kitimat area (91%) meets the provincial average (86.4%) for those 12 and older who are fully vaccinated.

The Prince George area has an 80% immunization rate, with the lowest in Northern Health being Peace River North (62%) and Fort Nelson (61%).

The Nechako and Quesnel regions saw a slight uptick in cases since last week, but the second dose immunization rate has been rising since October 12th, with Nechako rising from 62% to 67%, and Quesnel going from 67% to 71%.

Last month, additional measures were announced by health officials due to rising caseloads and hospitalizations.

They included:

  • Personal gatherings, both indoor and outdoor, are restricted to fully vaccinated people, including at private residences and vacation accommodation
    • Indoor gathering: up to 5 people are permitted
    • Outdoor gathering: up to 25 people are permitted
  • All indoor and outdoor organized events require a safety plan and for attendees to wear a mask and present their BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated
    • Indoor event: up to 50 people are permitted
    • Outdoor event: up to 100 people are permitted
  • Worship services: virtual services are required
  • Restaurants:
    • Fast-food restaurants and unlicensed cafés without table service can provide take-out only or require patrons to present the BC Vaccine card showing they are fully vaccinated.
    • Licensed establishments and those with table service must not serve alcohol between 10 pm-9 am and must require patrons to present the BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated.
  • Bars and nightclubs (no meal service) will be closed
  • Sport events spectators (indoor and outdoor) are limited to 50% capacity, must have a safety plan, and require attendees to wear masks and present their BC Vaccine Card showing they are fully vaccinated

Communities exempt from these new restrictions in Northern Health are those located west of Kitwanga: Terrace, Kitimat, Haida Gwaii, Prince Rupert, Stikine, Telegraph Creek, Snow Country, and Nisga’a.

In addition, BC will not be following Quebec and Ontario’s lead when it comes to dropping its vaccination mandate for healthcare workers.

According to the province over 3-thousand health care workers remain unvaccinated, which equates to about 2%.

Henry noted the measure has no shortage of backing.

“This is a very important measure that has wide support and we see that in the 98% of people in health care who have been vaccinated and we are working with every individual who is off work right now.”

While Henry believes it’s disappointing, not all health care workers are vaccinated, that should not take away from the long hours they have logged the past 20 months.

“I do wanna say though, I am incredibly proud of the health care workers in this province. We have stepped up and been immunized because we know how important it is to protect each other but also protect those we serve and care for.”

B-C will be receiving its first shipment of Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccines next week

Many health care workers have stated that one-shot inoculation is the only vaccine they would accept.

However, the continued misinformation still being shared about the approved vaccines is being met with frustration from Henry.

She touched on the most common misconception.

“Things like the vaccines affect fertility. All of these things are just not true and that is the thing that frustrates me more than anything and it’s very hard for people once they have heard these things and see them spread on social media.”

Henry is also not in agreeance that the province’s stance on those who remain unvaccinated is creating a divide between those who have been immunized and that have chosen not to.

“I don’t think there is any blame anywhere here. We are looking after and caring for anybody who gets sick with this virus. It is a fact that there are higher rates of transmission in people who don’t have the protection vaccines offer and that is something we are dealing with right now. But, it’s not about blaming people right now, it’s about recognizing that we have tools available that can protect us.”

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