Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health (Government of B.C./Special to The News)

Adrian Dix: It’s time to renew the fight to stop the spread

We must recommit to using our COVID sense to keep us safe, stop the spread and save lives

Our B.C. response to COVID-19 started early and is uniquely ours.

Over the past six months, we’ve shown that we’re generous, empathetic, understanding, compassionate and kind. We pull together, we make sacrifices — sometimes heartbreaking sacrifices — and we show humility in doing the job that must be done to keep us safe. Our B.C. position today is a result of our individual and collective efforts to stop the spread. We made the difference, because each of us is the difference.

That’s who we are as British Columbians. We make a difference.

There is no clearer evidence of this than the recent release of B.C.’s serology report that measured the prevalence and spread of COVID-19 in B.C. The study showed that the efforts each of us took produced a successful suppression of community transmission — and possibly the lowest rate of infection in North America. We made this happen. Each one of us. By working together and staying apart.

And it is this effort, this dedication, this discipline that saw us bend — then flatten — our B.C. curve. It has made possible our B.C. summer of social, surgical, and economic renewal.

Earlier this week, Michael Marchbank, the former CEO of Fraser Health, presented our first monthly progress report on our surgical renewal commitment. We’ve called 66,651 patients about rescheduling their surgeries; 52 per cent of surgeries postponed due to COVID-19 have been completed.

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Each week since June 15, we’ve completed 100 per cent or more of 2019 surgery volumes. Surgical activity this summer will increase by an unprecedented 52 per cent over last summer. The progress showed that remarkable people across our health care system, in every health region, are doing extraordinary work to get patients the surgeries they need. And that includes each of us.

By stopping the spread, each one of us has made sure our hospitals are not overwhelmed by COVID-19. This has allowed our doctors, nurses, anesthetists, health professionals — and everyone involved in planning and delivering surgeries — to fulfill the commitment to patients.

On Thursday we saw more evidence of the positive difference each one of us is making in the lives of others. Right now, 465 of B.C.’s 584 long-term care homes and assisted living facilities have visitation plans in place and are now welcoming visitors. That’s up from 318 last week and is a stunning achievement since we eased the visitor restrictions only three weeks ago. We were able to ease those restrictions because every one of us helped make it safe to do so. We have made these achievements possible though our hard work, and our humility.

But we’re human. We make mistakes. The past two weeks have also taught us an unwelcome lesson in COVID math. They’ve shown what happens when we let our guard down. They’ve shown us how COVID-19 bursts our bubble when we fail to stay within it. They’ve shown us why we cannot waver in our dedicated use of the skills that Dr. Henry and our public health officials have taught us.

We know that with COVID-19 each moment of each day matters. There’s a place for common sense, but right now we must recommit to using our COVID sense. We must continue to do what we have proven works for us and for B.C. We must use our COVID sense to keep us safe and stop the spread.

Using our COVID sense means we know this: That physical distancing saves lives; that wearing a mask is the right thing to do when we can’t maintain physical distance; that we must keep our number of contacts small; that there’s a huge upside in being outside; that we must wash our hands often; that we must listen and be respectful to people who are asking us to take actions in their store or restaurant that will keep us healthy and stop the spread, and; that we stay home and away from others if we feel sick.

Remembering, respecting, and ritualizing these skills is our COVID sense. And using our COVID sense will drive our number of new cases back into decline. And show that when we bend the curve, not the rules, we make all the difference. We need to recommit right now to what we know has made the difference for us and our B.C. effort.

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As we approach our B.C. Day long weekend, let’s acknowledge right now that it cannot be like any B.C. Day long weekend we’ve ever had. This is our first B.C. Day celebration in our new B.C. normal.

We’ll make it fun, we’ll make it memorable, and we’ll make it safe by using our COVID sense. And when we do that — when we use the skills Dr. Henry has taught us — people who are suffering get surgery, seniors in long-term care get visits, people get back to work, children get back to school, people who we love and care for get to live new-normal lives within the constraints of a pandemic. We need to keep going, we need to stick together.

Our strength is us. Ours is the lead to follow. We’re going to get through our pandemic, and we’re going to get through it together. Everyone leading and driving all these achievements in our B.C. renewal — all that progress — has acknowledged that they’ll make mistakes, but they’ll learn from them. And in our individual and collective duty to stop the spread, we make mistakes, too.

Another one of our great assets as British Columbians is that we learn, we adapt our behaviour and, in doing that, we inspire each other to do better. We are counting on each other. We are counting on each other to continue to stop the spread. We are counting on each other to keep our effort united. This is the summer of our B.C. social, surgical, and economic renewal. And right now, it’s time to renew our fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Adrian Dix is B.C.’s minister of health.

BC Health

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