B.C. activates advanced COVID-19 response to protect British Columbians

by Dennis Kim

Photo Credit: Claudio Schwarz

To protect people in B.C. against novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and mitigate the impact of this illness on communities, the B.C. government and the provincial health officer have developed the British Columbia Pandemic Provincial Co-ordination Plan to respond to the evolving outbreak.

Premier John Horgan has appointed a deputy ministers' committee to oversee a whole-of-government approach to implementing the plan, reporting directly to a new cabinet committee that he and Health Minister Adrian Dix will co-chair.

“From the first day the world learned of this outbreak, B.C.’s public health officials have delivered the most robust response of any jurisdiction in this hemisphere. Through this co-ordination plan, we will ensure they have the support they need so we are prepared for all possibilities,” Premier Horgan said.

B.C.’s COVID-19 pandemic response plans include a wide range of planning and preparedness actions to help individuals, local governments, health-sector organizations and businesses to plan for the possibility of a pandemic. The plan focuses on delaying, containing and preparing the province to minimize serious illness and economic disruption.

“The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve here in B.C., Canada and other countries in the world. We are at a critical point in the fight against the virus and we will ensure B.C.’s health system and population are ready for any scenario,” Dix said.

Phase 1 of the plan is underway, addressing identification and containment -- continuing strong public health testing and close collaboration with the federal government on border surveillance, to identify and isolate individuals who test positive for the virus and their close contacts. The priority is to delay the onset of widespread community transmission for as long as possible.

Phase 2 would escalate cross-government co-ordination to quickly direct actions and resources, as required. It also prepares for the use of emergency powers set out in the Emergency Program Act and Public Health Act. It would ensure provincial business and service continuity – with four priorities:

  1. Protecting Population
  2. Protecting Vulnerable Citizens
  3. Protecting Health Workers
  4. Supporting Health-care Capacity

Protecting Population actions would include increasing testing capacity and expanding communication with at-risk groups. It would also enact government continuity plans to prepare for the possibility of high absence rates due to illness, or if employees are absent in order to care for family. It would also provide supports for businesses and institutions to manage the same challenges through a sustained three- to four-month outbreak; including grocery stores, public transportation, schools and the tourism sector.

Protecting Vulnerable Citizens actions would include ways to protect seniors in long-term care, assisted living and home and community care, which could include reducing the number of people coming into facilities, screening visitors and increasing testing for illness of residents and health-care workers.

Protecting Health Workers actions would include implementing standardized preparedness plans at the local level to support health-care workers to respond to a wider outbreak and provincially manage and co-ordinate supply chains for hospital, community and primary care. It would also bring in additional health-care capacity for specific communities under stress by establishing a list of health-care workers who could be rapidly redeployed for a sustained period.

Supporting Health-Care Capacity actions would use established emergency operation committees across health authorities to assess the ability to plan and respond at a local level to a community-wide outbreak and create capacity, as needed, in hospitals for:

  • discharging low-risk patients;
  • deferring scheduled surgeries and procedures;
  • identifying capacity for new care spaces within hospitals; and
  • ensuring bed equipment capacity.

It would also ensure readiness to implement hospital-wide protocols to safely triage and separate anyone presenting with respiratory illness.

“The COVID-19 pandemic response plans and materials are developed in partnership with our experts at the BC Centre for Disease Control, based on our provincial influenza pandemic plans that all health authorities had implemented in 2012, as well as the lessons we had learned from H1N1 and SARS in the past,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer. “Thanks to the great efforts made by our public health leaders and health-care workers, we have kept the risk of COVID-19 spread low in B.C., but it is important for people, communities and organizations to build resiliency and have plans in place, not just for the possibility of a pandemic but emergency in general.”

Of British Columbia’s 21 confirmed COVID-19 cases, four B.C. patients have now fully recovered. With the exception of one patient who is in the intensive care unit at Vancouver General Hospital, all other individuals with COVID-19 are in isolation at home with support and monitoring from public health teams.

As of Friday, March 6, 2020, the BC Centre for Disease control has tested 2,803 samples for 2,008 people.

Learn More:

For the COVID-19 pandemic preparedness and planning materials, visit: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/health/about-bc-s-health-care-system/office-of-the-provincial-health-officer/current-health-topics/pandemic-influenza.

For recommendations on protecting yourself and your community, visit: http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/coronavirus-(novel)

For more information and latest updates on COVID-19, follow the BC Centre for Disease Control on Twitter @CDCofBC or visit the website: http://www.bccdc.ca/

Sourced From: Government of BC

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