What expanding social contact could look like in B.C.’s next pandemic phase

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    The number of British Columbians dying from illicit drug overdoses plateaued in 2018, despite significant efforts from groups around the province to prevent deaths. The BC Coroners Service reports there were 1,489 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018, just over the total of overdose deaths seen in 2017. It is likely the number of these deaths for 2018 will increase as investigations conclude. Learn more: https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2019PSSG0009-000177

    Victoria: There won’t be indoor parties this summer in British Columbia, but Dr. Bonnie Henry gave some hints at what broadening social circles could look like in the next stage of pandemic response.
    The provincial health officer suggested during her briefing Thursday that B.C.’s reopening plan next week will largely entrust residents with assessing the risk within their own circles and acting accordingly.
    “We may be able to connect with others in a way that we haven’t been able to in a while, but we need to be thoughtful about it,’’ Henry said.
    “We need to be careful about our own situation.’’
    Thursday marked 100 days since the B.C. government issued its first warnings about the novel coronavirus. Since then, the province has seen the number of new cases rise, peak and fall.
    Throughout the pandemic, B.C. has taken a less severe approach to lockdown than some other provinces. Premier John Horgan said Wednesday that the reopening guidelines will also be different than other provinces, mostly because B.C. didn’t fully lock down its economy, allowing construction, agriculture and other industries to continue operating.
    On Thursday, Henry said it may be fine for young people who are on their own to connect with other small groups of friends. But someone who has a family member undergoing cancer treatment, for example, should consider avoiding expanding their circle much.
    “We’re not going to have large group gatherings together, we’re not going to be having indoor parties this coming summer, but we can look at how we can safely have more people and more contact in our lives,’’ she said.
    Opening venues like casinos, where many seniors congregate, won’t be at the top of the priority list, she said.
    Henry announced 25 new cases in the province bringing the total number of people diagnosed to 2,112, while 1,322 people have fully recovered. Two more people have died bringing the death toll to 111 in B.C.
    The provincial government plans to release new modelling of infection rates in the province on Monday.
    By Amy Smart
    The Canadian Press