While many people are eager to see pandemic-imposed restrictions lifted in B.C., health officials caution against moving too fast.
On Monday (June 14), Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that British Columbians may begin to enjoy increased connections as the province moves into Step 2 of its Restart Plan — but that public health orders are still in place.
Public health safety protocols, such as mask-wearing in all indoor public spaces and physical distancing, will remain in place during Step 2. Further, Henry noted that guidance on indoor gatherings remains the same.
Personal indoor gatherings continue to be limited to five visitors, or one other household. However, playdates are permitted now.
B.C.'s top doctor emphasized the importance of monitoring the stepwise progression of the restart plan. "We're letting the data speak for itself," she said.
"We know a lot about this virus — we don't know everything — but we can look at what's happening we look at the rates of immunization in different age groups. Where we see transmission."
While she doesn't foresee the province having to move backwards in its plan, Henry noted that "we may need to slow going forward, depending on what happens" in the next couple of weeks.
Closer to July, health officials will determine whether the restrictions may be eased further. "We're actively managing with people every single case and finding out where the transmission happens so that we can keep a lid on things as we move through into this next phase," Henry explained.
An increase in COVID-19 cases is 'likely' as B.C. eases restrictions, she said. "And so that's where we have to find that balance of things we need to do to be together...and our own personal risks and our own personal comfort levels."
Some British Columbians will not feel ready to increase their social interactions at this stage.
B.C. prepares to safely move to Step 2 of its restart plan
The four-step restart plan was designed based on data and guidance from the BC Centre for Disease Control and Henry. Progressing to each step of the plan will be measured by the number of people vaccinated, COVID-19 case counts and hospitalizations and deaths and other key public health metrics.
The transition into Step 2 of the four-step restart plan aligns with key metrics for moving forward. More than 75 per cent of adults are vaccinated with their first dose, exceeding the target Step 2 minimum threshold of 65 per cent. The other metrics for moving through the stages - COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations - continue to steadily decline.
The Province has formally extended the provincial state of emergency through the end of the day on June 22, allowing health and emergency management officials to continue to use extraordinary powers under the Emergency Program Act to support the Province's COVID-19 pandemic response. The original declaration was made on March 18, 2020, the day after Henry declared a public health emergency, and can be extended for periods of up to 14 days at a time.