Dr. Bonnie Henry and COVID-19

March 26, 2020

Written by: Alicen Ricard

COVID-19 has taken over the news lately, and here in British Columbia we’ve all been awaiting daily updates from Dr. Bonnie Henry. She’s been the provincial health officer since February 1, 2018. She’s also an Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia. Before that she was a deputy provincial health officer for three years. The various roles she’s held over the years in British Columbia are intern provincial executive medical director of the BC Centre for Disease Control, medical director of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control and Public Health Emergency Management with the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, medical director for the provincial emerging and vector-borne diseases program, medical director for surveillance and control of healthcare associated infections. Before that she worked in Toronto where she was an associate medical officer of health where she was responsible for the Emergency Services Unit and the Communicable Disease Liaison Unit. During the SARS outbreak in 2003 she was the operational lead in response to the outbreak in Toronto. She was also a member of the executive team of the Ontario SARS Scientific Advisory Committee. She also helped WHO and UNICEF with a polio eradication program and she helped WHO control the Ebola outbreak in Uganda. This means she is very qualified to be handling the COVID-19 outbreak even though it’s the largest outbreak in over a hundred years.

So how has she been helping with COVID-19? She’s making sure we have the latest information and she’s been interpreting the data for us. Right now she is stressing how important it is for us to practice social distancing. It is no longer just suggested that we keep at least 6 feet apart, cover coughs, and frequently wash our hands, but required. On March 19 she said, “This is not optional, and I want to be very clear that everybody has to take these actions now.” She’s also trying to stress that it isn’t just the elderly that are affected. Especially since some young people have been sharing photos during spring break parties even though it is so important that we stay inside right now.

She’s been holding press conferences daily to update people on what’s happening. She has ordered all hair salons, nail salons, barbershops, spas, massage parlours, and tattoo shops. Restaurants are now only open for takeout. As of March 24, Vancouver City has approved new fines for businesses and individuals not following the government’s social distancing rules. With the influx of cases and deaths in care homes, they've made it so health care workers are only working at one care home so they don't accidentally spread it. A lot of beds at hospitals have been freed up and a lot of elective surgeries have been cancelled so the medical system won't be overburderned if there's a sudden increase in cases. 

Dr. Henry has so much experience in this area and people should comply to her restrictions. She has really been a beacon of hope for some people. She's a great communicator and has been trying to reassure the public instead of causing more panic. It's been nice having somewhere to get daily news other than social media, where there has been a lot of misinformation. 

Thank you Dr. Henry and all public health officials across Canada and the World for their work during this pandemic.

Tune into her daily address and stay up to date here.