Left as collateral damage?

On March 8, 2020 Canada recorded its first death from COVID-19, after a man in his 80s died in a North Vancouver long-term care home. Three days later the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

Fast forward to the July 8, 2021 news conference with Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, when they announced new rules for B.C.’s long-term care and assisted-living facilities.

Effective Monday, July 19, visitors will no longer need to schedule their visits in advance, nor will there be a limit on the number of visitors each resident can have. But Henry qualified her remarks, and said all visitors will need to be fully vaccinated and asked to provide proof of immunization when they arrive. She also said visitors will still need to wear a mask in common areas, but not when they are in the resident's room.

It has been 16 months since the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic. As far as I am aware, no provincial government requires a care worker to be immunized as a condition of employment. It boggles the mind!

The most our B.C. government is willing to do now is require workers at care facilities to be rapid tested. But the question is: Some workers or all workers?

Dr. Henry: “Workers who are not fully vaccinated will be required... to be tested for COVID-19 using rapid tests 3 times a week. Volunteers and personal service providers who generally work in long-term care will need to be fully vaccinated before they’ll be able to resume activities in care homes.”

Notice Dr. Henry’s careful word choice: “workers who are not fully vaccinated” — which gives the impression workers have received at least one of the two vaccine doses.

Yet the unvarnished truth is there are care workers throughout B.C. and the rest of the country — I wonder how many— who still refuse to take even the first vaccine dose, and are still working at a care facility.

Will the B.C. government also allow these anti-vaxxers to refuse to take the rapid tests?

Besides, Dr. Henry is a little late to the party.

Harvard epidemiologist Dr. Michael Mina has been advocating rapid tests — including for home use — since last November (CBC Radio, Quirks & Quarks, Nov. 27/20).

Since January 2021, B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie and B.C. Care Providers Association president Terry Lake have been calling for rapid testing of staff and visitors to long-term care homes as an additional screening measure. At the time, Dr. Henry's excuse for not promoting rapid testing at care homes (and other locations) was that it was time and labour intensive. On June 9, Isobel Mackenzie said during a Zoom presentation, sponsored by the Kelowna-based Society For Learning in Retirement: "Now that they [rapid tests] are nasal swabs, I think daily is absolutely manageable.”

Data still shows most of the nearly 42 million rapid tests sent last year by the federal government to provinces and territories are still unused, sitting on shelves.

What do all the provincial & territorial health ministers and health officers say now that well over 15,000 care home residents — plus 30 care workers — have died of COVID 19?

I wonder how many of these Canadians would still be alive today if all care home workers and visitors had been rapid tested from the beginning of the pandemic.

In the war on COVID-19, do these same health officials consider those who have died of COVID-19 while in "care" homes to be acceptable "collateral damage”?

Do Dr. Henry, Adrian Dix, Mike Farnworth (Minister of Public Safety), and Premier Horgan consider the 729 British Columbians who have died of COVID-19 while in "care" homes to be acceptable "collateral damage”?

David Buckna, Kelowna

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