Dr. Bonnie Henry says ‘new game’ with Omicron variant could signal end to COVID-19 pandemic

BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the record-breaking increase in COVID-19 cases in the province could eventually lead to a stage where the virus becomes endemic.

The province is currently undergoing its worst-ever increase in infections, driven by the more contagious Omicron variant, with 4,383 cases registered Thursday a record for daily affairs.

In a year-end interview with CBC News, Henry said Omicron’s spread was “unexpectedly fast” for the province’s health authorities, calling it a “new game” of the pandemic.

She introduced collection restrictions in response to the province’s fifth wave on December 17, and also announced Wednesday that most K-12 school students would return a week later than usual from the winter break.

“I was completely sorry to make the decisions that we made [Dec. 17], “she told CBC News.” Then I spent the whole weekend tormenting more … I had to check my optimism bias. “

“It was a very difficult decision, but I felt we had to overreact instead of underreact at the time.”

Although the province’s daily cases peak, and contact tracing and testing is at full capacity (which means that the true case of BC counts is probably much higher), Henry says she eventually believes the province will see the end of the pandemic.

“The way the virus changes with Omicron, it leads us to the place before,” she said. “The type of disease it causes where most of us are protected through vaccination means we get to that place.”

SE | Dr. Bonnie Henry says her decisions were based on available information:

Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses criticism surrounding pandemic leadership

Dr. Henry says she knows not everyone is happy with her decision-making around the pandemic, but she has been surprised by the amount of personal attacks she has received. 1:10

Henry says the virus will eventually stay “endemic“As the season shifts to spring, more children are being vaccinated and the spread of infection is slowing down, though she said there are still many unknowns ahead.

“I think we’ll get there, but we’ll always have to learn something from this,” she said.

“Some of them are societal – around the inequalities that this virus has revealed and the value we attach to different types of workers, for example.”

Never felt political pressure

Henry, who has been the face of the province’s COVID-19 reaction with Prime Minister John Horgan in the back seat, says she has never felt political interference during the pandemic.

“I have enormous respect for our elected representatives,” she said. “They have an incredibly important role, and my role is to give the best possible advice and try to find that balance.”

Henry is seen alongside BC Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix. She has been the face of the province’s COVID-19 response since the pandemic began. (Mike McArthur / CBC)

Henry also revealed that she has regular meetings with the opposition party, BC Liberal, as well as with health officials across the country and the province.

She said she was “grateful” for the advice and criticism she has received from her various meetings, and said officials let her take the lead when making important decisions.

Decision making based on available information

Henry says she stands by the decisions the province has made during the pandemic, despite constant criticism that BC has acted too slowly to respond to the spread of COVID-19.

“I have a strong feeling that we are making rational decisions with the best information we have,” she said. “I do not think we are doing better or worse than we have done right from the beginning.”

Henry says she was most proud of her decision to delay the second dose and mix-and-match vaccine doses, and applauded the community for stepping up to cooperate with BC’s rollout.

She says, however, that there were many decisions she wished she could have changed a little if she knew more.

“I have said from the beginning that we are waiting for the accusations, the class actions and the public inquiries before we start celebrating anything,” she said with a laugh.

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