B.C.'s top doctor says employers should anticipate seeing significant staff shortages due to illness from the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The province reported record-breaking COVID-19 daily case numbers heading into the holiday season and continues to see staggering daily figures in the new year.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing Tuesday (Jan. 4) afternoon that transmission is happening "much more rapidly" and individuals must be proactive in preventing themselves from getting sick. Additionally, employers and school administrators must prepare for widespread absences due to illness.
"Our challenge across the board in the next few weeks will be dealing with high numbers of people who are off ill and that may mean off work or out of school," she said. "It means [there will be] health-care workers and educators who aren't able to go to work because they're ill."
While numerous people will need to take time off work or stay home from school, Henry underscored that most of them will have "mild illness" due to increased vaccinations.
But the interruption to business continuity is something that employers must "carefully" consider, added the health officer.
"And today I want to speak to businesses in British Columbia," she stated. "Given this rate of transmission, the short incubation period, and the high number of people who are getting ill, we need all businesses to put contingency plans in place to keep businesses operating."
Businesses need to reactivate their robust COVID-19 safety plans, noted Henry. Further, they should anticipate that "as many as a third of [their] workforce at any one time may become ill with COVID-19 and they may not be able to come to work" and prepare to operate with a reduced staff.
Henry emphasized that employers must be proactive about activating their safety plans as the province will not issue additional public health orders related to their operations.
"First, remember, it is not just one thing. It's not about a rapid test. It's not about a mask that keeps one safe. It's about doing everything we can, all of us taking these measures to protect employees, our customers, and our family and friends," she said.
"Every layer of protection is not 100 per cent effective. It's putting these pieces together that gives us the protection that we need to keep operating."