Two physicians at work at Bulkley Valley District Hospital. (Contributed photo)

“Opening up” does not mean business as usual

Smithers MDs are ready for a cautious loosening of COVID-19 restrictions

Across Canada, and around the world, there are talks of opening the economy again. What does that mean? If you follow the news at all, you will realize that it means something different almost everywhere and depends on location.

Here in B.C., there has been a four-phased plan rolled out for businesses opening up. If you look around our community, you will see that things are starting to happen. Some non-essential stores are open, following strict adherence to the limit of customers in shops at a time, along with other safety measures, which are all to help flatten the spread of Covid-19.

Seasonal workers and tourists are also starting to come to town, which has been deemed OK, and an important part of our economy. All people are still expected to follow the guidelines set forth by Public Health, and everyone involved has worked incredibly hard to problem-solve the best way forward.

The Chief Health Officer of B.C., Dr Bonnie Henry is still stressing that “opening up” does not mean business as usual. She stated that gatherings of two to six people are ok with physical distancing, no large gatherings or holiday as usual plans.

READ MORE: Under mounting pressure, Henry says reopening B.C. will happen ‘safely, slowly, methodically’

The plan to open up is fluid, it will be a moving target that is constantly changing. Opening up again does not mean the virus is gone and it will most likely be around for quite some time. Time will tell.

For the medical community, opening up does mean that our ICUs will have more space for critical services.

For the general public it means a limited amount of extra freedom. We must, however, maintain vigilance in combating COVID-19 and maintain social distancing as much as possible. I know that this is not the news you may want to hear, but social distancing has been the number one element in combating the spread of this potentially deadly disease.

We are all changing our plans, and social distancing is often not the fun option, especially with temperatures warming up and more favourable weather in the forecast, but it is the most important and safest option.

In the severe form of COVID-19 the only treatment is breathing support, which means a bed in an ICU. When these beds are full, the medical system cannot appropriately treat the sickest patients and in the worst-case scenario people die because they could not receive adequate care.

READ MORE: COVID-19: B.C. begins calling back scheduled surgery patients

An increase in COVID-19 patients will result in the system being quickly overloaded. Therefore, regardless of changes in our social process, we must still be careful of our daily choices to limit any potential spread of the virus.

There is also conflicting advice depending on where you look. However, one thing to keep in mind is that every group has different priorities. Please remember that politicians are not doctors. Businesses are not doctors. Also, most doctors are not infectious disease or public health specialists.

At this critical time, it is the public health and infection specialists that we must listen to—they are the experts. The loosening of rules has the potential to create risky confidence, which easily can be breached, leading us backward in our progress.

We must be careful. The health care system has one priority, which is to keep people safe, so people must stay cautious, to help the overall well-being of everyone inclusively. We want the best for everyone.

British Columbia (and Smithers) has done incredibly well in flattening the curve thus far, and our cases have been minimized for the time being. We are ready to move cautiously forward. With that in mind, we will start to see a shift in day-to-day life.

Tourism will slowly return, shopping may slightly increase, and other activities may also become more noticeable. Through it all, we must continue to follow the advice that has worked, stay at home as much as possible, stay two metres apart (6 ft), don’t touch your face, and wear a mask if you cannot avoid close contact with others or are in contact with people vulnerable to infections.

Everyone will have different comfort levels with this reopening, please remember to stay safe and be kind. We truly are all in this together.

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