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Open Letter to all British Columbians: Just say no to “letting COVID rip.”

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We urge you to say NO to the wave of mass infection, mass disability and death anticipated, and due to the policies of our Minister of Health Adrian Dix and the Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry – something they claim they cannot stop.

Don’t be fooled. This is an active choice that our political leaders are making for you and for all British Columbians. Just as they chose not to expand PCR testing or collect rapid antigen test results from the community (so we could understand spread and transmission risk), they are choosing to have COVID infected patients share a hospital room with COVID negative patients. They are also choosing not to clean the air in your children’s schools (despite the scientific evidence proving that SARS-CoV-2 spreads through the air we share). These are all choices, not inevitabilities.

We urge you to choose differently; to protect your health, your family’s health and your community’s health. Don’t let COVID run rampant. Protect yourselves and protect each other, including those who are vulnerable and that now also includes anyone with Long Covid. Please heed the warning of Long Covid survivors who desperately want their old lives and their health back, but suffer the ongoing long-term consequences of a COVID infection.

Public Health is supposed to promote and protect the health and wellbeing of the population it serves – the “public” in Public Health. It is supposed to prevent illness of the whole population, leaving no one behind. In BC, we have shifted the burden of public health to individuals, and this is not possible.  

The most damning example of how the health of the public has been disregarded is the BC CDC seroprevalence study, in which the progression of COVID infections among children in schools was precisely documented (from Sept-Oct 2021 to March 2022). Despite evidence of the harm this would cause, the BC Public Health leader (and co-author of the study), Dr. Bonnie Henry did not warn the public about the findings, which would have helped to prevent COVID infections and protect our children, their families and communities. 

Quite the opposite; the message teachers and parents repeatedly heard at BC Covid Update press conferences was that schools were “COVID safe”- all while this study was taking place. To make matters worse, the BC Public Health Officer, despite ready access to the data showing sharply increased infections in children, removed mask protections in schools after the March break and reopened schools this September without any COVID protections. As the lead author of the study, Dr. Danuta Skowronski publicly admitted, “children were the least vaccinated and the most infected group.” 

Yet public health officials attempt to fool you with comments that children did not acquire COVID in schools or at early childhood education centres. In fact, children were in the age group with the highest infection rate during the school period (Sept-Oct 2021 to March 2022). That it was higher than the parents’ age group is key, as it shows children brought home COVID from school. All parents with school age children know this: children bring viruses home!

Contrast the public health direction in BC with the comments of Germany’s Federal Health Minister, Karl Lauterbach: “It is incompatible with my job as Health Minister that children are falling ill in large numbers. Infecting an entire generation is irresponsible. We don’t know yet what this infection does to the children’s immune system when it occurs repeatedly. As a society we cannot take the risk of mass infection in schools.” If only our BC Health Minister cared as much!

Do not buy into the myth of “robust hybrid immunity,” a term used for a combination of vaccination and infection. With Omicron and other quickly evolving new variants, this cannot be achieved. How many of us know people who have recently recovered from COVID-19, only to be reinfected shortly after? How can there be “robust hybrid immunity” from being infected by a virus we can easily be reinfected with, since this virus keeps mutating? Please hear this: we cannot infect our way out of this pandemic.

Immunologists are warning us that SARS-CoV-2, like some other viruses (such as HIV and measles), causes immune dysfunction. In other words, it weakens your immune system so that you are more prone to get sick with other pathogens such as bacteria or other viruses.  Until we know the extent to which this is true, it is wise to use the precautionary principle, and do everything we can to avoid this risk.

We  hear “Omicron is mild”.  No. There are no “mild Covid” cases – not in adults, and not in children. As Professor Jeremy Nicholson, Director of Australian National Phenome Centre at Murdoch University stated, “while kids tend to experience fairly mild symptoms during the acute phase of an infection, their blood biochemistry is really quite abnormal." We do not yet have the blood tests available to fully understand the extent of the damage this vascular virus is causing, but the evidence so far is deeply disturbing.

We have been lulled into a false sense of security because many do experience a short lived and relatively “mild” acute respiratory appearing infection. However, the virus can cause longer lasting hidden damage through inflammation of the lining of blood vessels, resulting in clotting that can affect the vessels of almost every single organ in your body. Studies show this can leave you with diabetes, heart attacks, blood clots, Long Covid, strokes, Parkinson’s disease and dementia.

As physician-scientist Dr. Eric Topol stated, “it took about fifteen years after the 1918-9 pandemic to pick up the increased risk of Parkinson’s disease among survivors.”

Not all SARS survivors did recover, either, and some actually got worse over time. Why would we expect anything different with SARS-CoV-2?

Speaking of SARS in BC, what stopped its spread in Vancouver? The precautionary principle. Back in March 2003, just before starting her shift, Vancouver emergency physician Dr. Lyne Filiatrault was reading a timely memo sent from the BC CDC’s Dr. Danuta Skowronski. The memo warned physicians about an undiagnosed, atypical pneumonia in central China and of the reemergence of Avian flu in Hong Kong. The very last patient wheeled in by the triage nurse on that fateful day shift was a gentleman with severe difficulty breathing who had just returned from Hong Kong. From the triage nurse to the respiratory therapist, to the charge nurse who cleared an isolation room, everyone came together like a finely tuned orchestra, and the patient was isolated within less than an hour. 

At no time was there a discussion about letting the infection spread. Protecting the healthcare team and the other patients in the emergency was the priority, as was preventing spread to our community. What happened in Vancouver was not replicated in Toronto where Dr. Bonnie Henry was the Associate Medical Officer of Health. In fact, the SARS Commission found that Toronto’s handling of SARS was marred by a lack of use of the Precautionary Principle, which is the exact situation that BC finds itself in right now with Dr. Bonnie Henry at the helm.

Back in 2003, the healthcare system in Vancouver worked – now it does not. We cannot allow it to be fully destroyed by our current  policy which allows rampant spread. We must protect our frail healthcare system as well as its dedicated healthcare professionals, many of whom are already burned out. We must use all layers of protection to control COVID-19 for their sake and for ours.

Say YES to your booster, but remember it is not the silver bullet our BC Public Health leaders make it out to be. A vaccine-only strategy will not prevent you getting infected, but it will significantly lower your risk of being hospitalized or dying. As for Long Covid, vaccination lowers your risk of developing Long Covid, without completely eliminating it. Therefore even vaccinated people should avoid infection or reinfection to avoid Long Covid.

By choosing not to limit the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in British Columbia, our leaders are inviting new vaccine evading variants into our province, our communities, our homes, and our lives. 

We urge you to demand that your government uses Public Health for its stated purpose, protecting the health of the Public, ALL the children and adults of British Columbia. 

After pressuring your government to start responsibly pursuing public health, what other actions can you take to reduce Covid in your community? You can say NO to the BC government’s agenda of “let it rip.” Protect yourself, your family and your community and your healthcare system. Use SMARTS to stay safe:

●    Stay home when symptomatic

●    Mask-up (N95, KN95 or KF94)

●    Air cleaners in every poorly ventilated or crowded indoor space

●    Refresh indoor air (HVAC or open windows)

●    Test, Trace (notify your contacts), and Isolate (based on aerosol spread)

●    Shift from the “me” to the “we”

By shifting from the “me” to the “we”, we mean a shift in understanding that collective measures are required to effectively deal with a collective situation. A pandemic is not a problem experienced only by an individual, nor is it something that individual actions alone can solve. 

There can be no such thing as “individual public health measures” because public health is not something one individual can bring about; the collective of society is affected by the actions of its members. This is particularly true with a virus that spreads through the air we share. We have to act collectively; to protect one another is to protect ourselves.“We cannot ‘me’ our way out of a ‘we’ problem.

Archived Briefings from Protect Our Province BC

A Protect Our Province BC panel discussion with A panel discussion about how we as a community can pull together to create a safer learning environment for kids when school starts again in September! We can avoid another ‘tripledemic’ if we work together! Ready for Fall 2023? video: Briefing video:
“COVID-19 vaccination is safe during pregnancy and may protect newborns from infection, especially if vaccines are given in the second or third trimester. This is similar to what we are already doing with other maternal vaccines, including TDaP and seasonal influenza.” – Dr. Eastabrook
“If we had an epidemic of people with broken limbs and we saw people in plasters and crutches, it would be more evident. But there is a lot of disability that is happening, which is a hidden disability often, which is why we need to talk about it more, for people to understand what the consequences are. And that will help to make better decisions.” - Lynette

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