What you need to know about B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Premier John Horgan released details Wednesday about B.C.’s plan for the reopening of services amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are five things to know about the timeline, testing strategies, and public health protocols for businesses, schools, daycares, retailers, and sports.

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1. Four Phases Toward a ‘New Normal’

Focus for Mid-May Onwards Under enhanced protocols

  • Restoration of health services

  • Re-scheduling Elective Surgery

  • Medically-related services

  • Dentistry, Physiotherapy, Registered Massage Therapy, Chiropractors

  • Physical therapy, speech therapy and similar

  • Retail sector

  • Hair salons/ barbers/other personal service establishments

  • In-person counselling

  • Restaurants, cafes, pubs – with sufficient distancing measures

  • Museums, art galleries, libraries

  • Office based worksites

  • Recreation/sports

  • Parks, beaches and outdoor spaces

  • Transit Services

  • Child care

Focus June-September
(If transmission rate remains low or in decline under enhanced protocols)

  • Hotels and Resorts (June)

  • Parks – broader reopening, including some overnight camping (June)

  • Film industry – beginning with domestic productions (June/July)

  • Select entertainment – Movies and symphony, but not large concerts (July)

  • Post-secondary education – with mix of online and in-class (September)

  • K-12 education – with only a partial return this school year (September)

Phase One (Today) - Essential Services Operating During COVID-19

  • Enhanced resources for hospitals and health care.

  • Child care for essential workers.

  • K-12: Online and in-class learning.

  • Non-essential businesses.

  • Construction, manufacturing, agriculture, silviculture.

Phase Two - Under Enhanced Protocols

  • Small gatherings.

  • Elective surgeries resume.

  • Dentistry, chiropractic, physiotherapy, in-person counselling resume.

  • Provincial parks will open for day-use.

  • More retail businesses to re-open, supported by WorkSafeBC.

  • Expanded in-person schooling for K-12 (voluntary).

  • Legislature resumes.

Phase Three - Under Enhanced Protocols

  • More parks open, camping resumes.

  • Film and TV production.

  • Movie theatres.

  • Personal services like spas and non-medical massage.

  • Hotels and resorts.

Phase Four (Treatment/Vaccine)

Conditional on at least one of: wide vaccination; “community” immunity; broad successful treatments.

  • Large gatherings (rock concerts, conventions).

2. Public Health Guidelines

Personal Self Care:

  • No hand shaking.

  • Practicing good hygiene: frequently washing you hands and covering your cough.

  • Maintaining reasonable physical distance when out in the community and using a non-medical mask or face covering in situations where reasonable physical distancing cannot be maintained.

  • If you have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19 stay at home and keep a safe distance from others until those symptoms have completely disappeared.

  • If you are at greater risk (older than 60, compromised immune system, underlying chronic medical conditions) get informed about risk, assess your own risk tolerance, think through and apply extra precautions and heightened vigilance.

Social Interaction:

  • A clear policy for not socializing when you have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, including coughing or sneezing.

  • Maintain regular social contact with extended family or small groups of friends – but only in small groups (between 2-6 guests) while maintaining a safe physical distance. These considerations are especially important when visiting people who are more vulnerable to the health impacts of COVID-19.

Workplace:

  • Actively promote and monitor personal self care actions in your organization.

  • Actively promote and implement the core measures for managing social interaction in your organizational setting in congregate social areas (kitchens, staff room, canteens, shared public spaces).

  • You must have clear policies to enable and ensure that individuals who have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or Covid-19 including any coughing or sneezing should not come into the workplace. As part of opening your specific settings, you should implement sick day policies for the coming twelve months that actively work with individual staff being off sick more often or working safely at home during these illnesses. As employers you must take leadership in this regard with routine screening/questions of staff for symptoms checking.

  • Require and sustain higher levels of frequent cleaning of “high touch” areas in workplaces and retail outlets throughout the day and availability of hand sanitizer stands at entrances or around workplaces and shops.

  • Where appropriate and practical increase use of temporary physical barriers (such as plexiglass at service counters or checkouts).

  • Focus on how you will support and accommodate higher-risk populations including those 65+ and those with underlying medical conditions. Workplaces, retail and personal service businesses are encouraged to exercise greater accommodation for these age groups in terms of work space, more flexible hours of work or shopping (earlier, later, mid-day) or working at home options.

Offices:

  • Where possible continue to encourage working from home part of the time to reduce “contact intensity” and “number of contacts” in the work place.

  • Where this is not possible or in addition to working from home policies, enable employees to have less contacts by:

  • Using staggered shifts or work hours for individuals or groups.

  • Teams working together virtually or small team task groups.

  • Forgoing in person group meetings as much as possible.

Retail Stores:

Best practice for the retail sector will be open to discussion as the sector develops its proposed plans. The PHO is continuing to review the guidelines.

There are several actions the sector should think through in developing their proposed plans:

  • Ability to increase throughput of customers and reduce line-ups by opening and maintaining a higher number of check-outs once physical plexiglass barriers are installed between checkouts.

  • Increased or continued encouragement of on-line shopping, deliveries, and/or pick-ups to reduce volume of visits.

  • Increasing hours of shopping to decrease density of customers throughout the day.

  • Encourage or require utilization of basic non-medical masks while shopping in the store to reduce the spread through individuals coughing, sneezing, or close interpersonal contact and therefore increase density.

  • Use of physical barriers such as plexiglass.

  • Messaging re not shopping while sick (cold, flu, Covid-19 symptoms) and routine screening/questions of customers for symptoms checking.

Personal Services:

Hair salons, barbers, and personal service establishments will:

  • Use messaging about not accessing services while sick (cold, flu, Covid-19 symptoms) and routine screening/questions of customers for symptoms checking before providing a service.

  • Manage in terms of physical distancing and reducing or eliminate waiting areas.

  • Require appointments or bookings to manage customer flow.

  • Use of non medical masks and maintaining distance between customers while being served.

  • Use of physical barriers such as plexi-glass where practical.

Child Care:

  • Routine daily symptom screening for all staff and children.

  • Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.

  • Clear policy for children or staff who have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not coming into a child-care facility.

Public Schools (K-12):

  • Routine daily screening protocol for all staff and students.

  • Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.

  • Smaller class sizes, increased space between desks, alternating attendance arrangements, frequent hand washing, wearing non-medical masks for group activities and sports, and limiting group sizes.

  • Clear policy for children, youth and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not coming into school or taking part in extra curricular activities and sports.

  • Planning over the summer for increased use of remote online learning, especially for high school children.

  • Early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days of international students.

Post Secondary Schools:

  • Routine daily screening protocol for all staff and students.

  • Routine and frequent environmental cleaning.

  • Clear policy for students and staff who have symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19, with any coughing or sneezing not to attend classes, extra curricula activities, sports or work.

  • Increased use of on-line learning balanced against the need of social interaction for learning and development.

  • Early arrival and self-isolation for 14 days of international students

Sports/Recreation and Camps:

  • Routine daily symptom screening for all participants.

  • Low contact sports especially those outdoors are considered safer. Identify high contact sports that should not take place during the pandemic.

  • Clear policy for participants and staff who have the symptoms of a cold, flu, or COVID-19 symptoms, with any coughing or sneezing not participating.

  • Staff and participants at higher risk of experiencing severe illness should not take part in recreational, sporting, or camp activities.

3. Public Health Testing

Testing will remain an important part of the management strategy going forward. Public Health has recently revised guidance for COVID-19 testing by Nucleic Acid Tests (NATs) as follows:

  • Test all individuals with new respiratory or symptoms compatible with COVID-19 however mild.

  • Individuals in the following groups should be prioritized for testing:

  • Residents and staff of long-term care facilities.

  • Individuals requiring admission to hospital or likely to be admitted.

  • Healthcare workers.

  • Individuals with a higher probability of being infected with COVID-19 such as travellers just returned to Canada.

  • Residents of remote, isolated communities, including remote and isolated Indigenous communities.

  • People living in congregate settings such as work camps, correctional facilities, shelters, group homes, assisted living and seniors’ residences.

  • People who are homeless or have unstable housing.

  • Essential service providers such as first responders.

  • Healthcare providers can order a COVID-19 test for any patient based on clinical judgement.

  • COVID-19 testing not recommended for individuals without symptoms.

  • The Medical Health Officer may recommend testing for others, such as those who are part of an investigation of a cluster or outbreak.

4. To Be Determined

The timing of a safe restart of night clubs, casinos and bars is a more complicated consideration. As with other sectors, industry associations will be expected to develop safe operations plans, for review, that are in keeping with Public Health and Safety Guidelines, as well as WorkSafeBC.

Conditional on at least one of: wide vaccination; “community” immunity; broad successful treatments:

  • Restrictions of large gathering (not >50 for social gathering NOT applied work or retail box stores, larger grocery stores, or malls) will remain in place for now

  • Activities requiring large gatherings will be prohibited

  • Conventions

  • Live audience professional sports

  • Concerts

  • International tourism

5. Dynamic Modelling

  • While a return to near normal levels is expected to radically increase transmission, the move to 60% of normal is expected to result in a relatively flat transmission rate.

  • Practically, British Columbians could almost double the amount of social contacts they have currently and still maintain a flat transmission rate.

  • This presents opportunities we need to improve economic, social and personal well being for citizens – to find the right balance.

  • This should provide a sustainable “new-normal” for the coming 12 to 18 months, while a vaccine is developed and deployed. We can continue to refine and tweak the balance of actions based on closely monitoring transmission rates.

Source: Province of BC

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca. 

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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