COVID-19: Here’s a phase-by-phase look at how B.C. hopes to re-open parts of society

COVID-19: Here’s a phase-by-phase look at how B.C. hopes to re-open parts of society

It’s too soon to say exactly how certain sectors will be given the green light to re-open, and when

As health officials work to sort out the particulars around what specific industries and sectors will need to do in order to re-open safely, British Columbians have been given a high-level road map as to what will relaunch, and when.

Led by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the multi-phase plan which has been dubbed “the new normal” will rely on whether B.C. sees a required decrease in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases.

As long as British Columbians don’t let up on the basics – frequently washing hands, practising physical distancing, avoiding any non-essential trips, staying home when sick, and taking a careful approach to broadening social circles beyond those currently in their household – there has been much hope voiced by health officials that there could be overnight camping, movie theatres and other social activities returning in coming months.

“We need to have a slow and thoughtful reset, we do not want to undo all that we have done,” Henry said on Thursday (May 7).

ALSO READ: Here’s what is considered an essential service in B.C.

The plan to re-open parts of B.C., curated by Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, will meet its first test in a few weeks, as the province moves to “Phase Two” with the re-opening of libraries, in-person counselling, restaurants and more.

Henry has made it clear that bans will be reintroduced if she sees a resurgence in cases.

Here’s a timeline of how the province plans to phase in various services.

Phase Two, mid-May:

Re-scheduling elective surgeries and other health services

Dix announced this week that health authorities have already started calling patients who were forced to reschedule an elective surgery due to hospital restrictions and so bed space remained open in case of a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Meanwhile, other medical services such as dentistry, physiotherapy, registered massage therapy and chiropractors will also be able to safely re-open. This includes physical therapy, speech therapy and similar services.

In-person counselling will also be able to resume under physical distancing protocols.

Hair salons and personal services

Welcome news for most: Salons, barber shops and other personal service establishments will be able to accept clients. The decision by health officials comes despite a growing petition signed by some stylists and barbers asking the province not to “single them out” by opening first.

Restaurants, cafes and pubs

In late April, a group of restaurateurs were asked to create a proposed plan on how the industry could re-open safely. Since mid-March, restaurants and pubs of all sizes have been operating only as take-out and delivery services due to concerns of physical distancing.

A possible blueprint, created by the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association, on how businesses will have to adjust floor plans, seating arrangements and even the handling of cash, is currently before WorkSafeBC, which will be the final green light before dine-in options can return.

Henry has said that ensuring public trust is a second piece in the puzzle. The proposed plan includes a course that business owners and employees will have to undergo, and if passed, get to place a sticker on their front window.

Recreation and community spaces

Phase Two is also set to include the re-opening of museums, art galleries and libraries, as well as recreation spaces.

Parks, beaches and outdoor sites can also open. As with all other sites, physical distancing must be possible, as well as places to properly wash hands. In some cases, this could mean a cap on the number of visitors at any given time.

Health officials have OK’d some non-contact sports, such as soccer and lacrosse.

B.C. Parks has announced some trails will re-open to day use on May 14, with camping reservations to relaunch on May 25 through the Discover Camping online portal.

Office work spaces

Returning to the office will be likely for many British Columbians, but will have to be under measures that reduce the density of employees within certain areas.

Health officials have suggested that employers may stagger shifts, place physical barriers in between desks and space, and ensure hand sanitizer is available for staff.

All employers should have sick-day policies in place so employees don’t attend work when ill, and consider providing work from home options when possible, to reduce contact intensity.

Child care and education

As parents and caregivers prepare to return to work, the province is anticipating an increased need in child care support.

Child care has been considered an essential service, meaning that was not forced to close down like other businesses. Officials have said that in-classroom education will involve its own set of phases – yet to be released – that will allow kids back in the classroom before others.

“With weeks left in the school year, we anticipate many kids will not return to the classroom until September,” the province confirmed.

Phase Three, June to September

If transmission rates of COVID-19 remain low or in decline, Henry has said that further restrictions will be eased under enhanced measures.

While large-scale events, such as parades or mass gatherings will remain off the table through the summer and possibly into next year, the province is hopeful that British Columbians will be able to go to the movies again, starting in July.

Hotels and resorts

The hotel industry has been hard-hit due to a decrease in overall travel both inter-provincially and internationally, forcing many to shutter.

In Victoria and Vancouver, some have entered agreements with the province to serve as temporary housing for hundreds of homeless people currently living in three large encampments.

Exactly what protocols will be put in place in order for hotels and resorts to open safely have not been released, but will likely involve enhanced cleaning and limited guests. The World Health Organization and Henry have suggested that the bacterium does not live on surfaces for longer than hours to days, but specifics have not been confirmed by researchers.

Camping

Overnight camping will be available across B.C.’s parks beginning June 1. Meanwhile, some private campgrounds have remained open through the pandemic.

Film industry

It’s no surprise that Hollywood North has suffered due to border closures and physical distancing measures. Filming across B.C. tends to pick up in the spring and summer, specifically for Hallmark Christmas movies.

Health officials hope that in June or July that domestic productions will be able to resume.

Entertainment

In July, British Columbians may be allowed to head to the movies or attend a symphony, so long as transmission rates stay low.

While large concerts and festivals are off the table, movie theatres and smaller venues will have to follow current bans on gatherings being less than 50 people. Physical distancing also calls for at least two metres between individuals or strangers.

Education

The next school year will still be feeling the impacts of COVID-19, according to B.C.’s plan.

In September, Kindergarten to Grade 12 students will see a “partial return” to school. It’s too soon to say exactly what that will look like.

Post-secondary students could see a mix of online and in-class lectures, with a likely cap on attendance in larger-sized classrooms.

Phase Four, to be determined

It’s unclear when B.C. will enter Phase Four of the provincial plan, because it relies on the development of a widely available vaccine – which has yet to be created – the province reaching herd immunity, or a broad successful treatment that can manage COVID-19 symptoms.

Henry has said that B.C.’s goal is not to reach herd immunity because too many people, particularly seniors, run the risk of seeing adverse impacts of the virus and high numbers of cases would place too much pressure on the health care system.

ALSO READ: Gaining herd immunity through COVID-19 transmissions ‘ineffective’: B.C.’s top doctor

The BC Centre for Disease Control has warned it could take years for a vaccine to be developed, tested and widely implemented.

However, when that does come, B.C. health officials will look to allowing conventions, live audiences at professional sports, concerts, night clubs and casinos and international tourism. Those sectors will also have to create individually tailored plans that meet the necessary health requirements.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

BC governmentCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An example of a Surrey Police cruiser, showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel in May of 2019. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Surrey Police Service looking to hire in-house lawyer

Solicitor to work within Office of the Chief Constable, serve on internal and external committees to ‘represent the SPS’s interests’

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Sources White Rock/South Surrey Food Bank is located at 2356 156 St. (File photo)
Door-to-door canvassers not working on behalf of Sources Food Bank, says manager

Accredited White Rock, South Surrey, Langley food bank does not canvas for donations

Post-COVID-19 recovery clinic in Surrey, at Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre. (Photo: Fraser Health)
Surrey gets one of three post-COVID-19 recovery clinics

The Jim Pattison Outpatient Care and Surgery Centre is located at 9750 140th Street

Surrey RCMP say that after checking on a “semi-conscious” driver in Whalley on Jan. 20, 2021, officers found about 21 grams of suspected cocaine, 68 grams of suspected fentanyl, about $1,400 in case, a stolen shotgun and ammunition. (Photo: Surrey RCMP handout)
Surrey RCMP say ‘semi-conscious’ driver found with drugs, gun

Officer saw ‘open alcohol and suspected drugs’ inside the vehicle, police say

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Competitors make their way through the course at the 2019 Canadian Cross Country Championships, which was hosted by Abbotsford in 2019. (File photo)
Abbotsford to host 2023 Canadian Cross Country Championships

Clearbrook Park last hosted the event in 2019, Ottawa hosting 2021 and 2022 races

Officers investigate the scene after a pedestrian was struck and killed on Friday morning. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Male pedestrian, 37, killed in Abbotsford after being struck by vehicle

Collision took place in 31800 block of South Fraser Way on Friday morning

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Most Read