Let’s focus on creating resilient communities.

Today I asked Premier Horgan and Minister Dix if they acknowledge that COVID-19 is an airborne virus. The Premier did not stand to answer. Minister Dix said this government follows the “science” but not once said the words “COVID-19 is airborne”. We need to restore that crucial confidence in public health guidance and democracy. To do that, governments must be able to acknowledge mistakes and be willing to improve.

Transcript:

S. Furstenau: I’m going to follow the lead of the Canadian women’s hockey team and keep my N95 mask on for these proceedings.

I want to echo the words of the Leader of the Opposition, and on behalf of our caucus, we are very happy to see the Premier back and well and doing his job.

Thank you very much, Premier, for your strength, and we are very happy to see you well again.

More than ever, we need governments that the public feel confident about, and I’m afraid that we’re not there. People are confused by health policies. They’re confused by what are guiding directions, what are the outcomes trying to be achieved, how we are measuring success.

We have two devastating health emergencies in B.C. right now, and we need this more than ever. To restore that crucial confidence, governments have to be able to acknowledge mistakes and be willing to improve. They need to explain what is informing their decisions and how they are transparently measuring the outcomes of their policies.

Right now across B.C., patients, health care workers, teachers and others are not being provided a critical tool to protect themselves against an airborne virus, an N95 mask. Nurses in Fraser Health have filed a human rights complaint against their employer for denying them access to N95s in their workplace.

I commend the Premier and, by my count, about a dozen members of the government caucus for protecting themselves and others and wearing an N95 mask.

My question is to the Premier. Does he recognize and acknowledge that COVID-19 is an airborne virus?

Hon. A. Dix: With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic — and the member will know this — in British Columbia, our efforts in this area and in all others have been guided by the science and guided by an outstanding team of public health leaders led by Dr. Bonnie Henry, an internationally regarded expert in these areas. Her position in B.C. is enshrined in statute to provide independent advice to the government.

With respect to mask-wearing in B.C., the strength of that approach has been, over the course of the pandemic, to adapt to the science and the circumstances, something Dr. Henry has consistently done — and why, overwhelmingly in B.C., people have supported that effort. They know it’s based on the evidence, and they know it’s based on the best counsel and will continue to be.

With respect to PPEs in general and N95 masks in particular, part of my task has been to ensure, with the health care system, that people have the masks in the health care system that are required, where they’re required, to protect themselves and to protect their patients. That has happened. We built an inventory, for example, in the health care system, of 7.7 million N95 masks to do so.

Our work and our guidance will continue to be based, as they have been from the beginning, on the advice of public health professionals, on Dr. Henry and her team, an internationally regarded group of experts.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Third Party, supplemental.

S. Furstenau: Thank you to the minister. However, he invokes “internationally regarded….” The WHO has acknowledged that COVID is airborne. The Canadian Public Health Agency has acknowledged that COVID is airborne and has recommended that people wear N95 masks. We are internationally regarded, at this moment, as being out of line with a lot of the consensus around airborne transmission.

People are being told they cannot wear their own N95 masks into health facilities in this province. Yesterday the B.C. Children’s Hospital was tweeting that N95 is not an airborne virus…. This is on top of many statements being made by public health authorities in this province, doubling down on droplet transmission of this virus.

My question, again, is to the Minister of Health. Why will he not stand up and acknowledge that this is an airborne virus and the best protection that people can have… In this room, 100 percent of people are vaccinated, and we are all wearing masks, doing the right thing to reduce transmission of this virus. We need the leadership to recognize it’s time to acknowledge this is an airborne virus.

Hon. A. Dix: Dr. Henry and I — in particular, Dr. Henry but also Dr. Gustafson and our teams of experts at the BCCDC — have briefed on the question of transmission repeatedly over the last two years, including on this precise issue of transmission. We’ve put in place a set of protections for people, layers of protection that allow them to be as safe as possible in the context of a global pandemic.

The member talks about international comparisons. Well, an important international comparison is the fact that British Columbia — this isn’t Dr. Henry; it’s not me; it’s not the Premier; it’s not the government; it’s all of us — has one of the highest levels of vaccination in the world, here in British Columbia, one of the highest levels of compliance with public health guidance. That is, I think, pretty significant.

We have — and this is our success, all the members of the Legislature, all the people of B.C. — one of the lowest levels of mortality in comparable jurisdictions anywhere in the world. That’s because Dr. Henry is giving clear advice based on the evidence, and I think the people of B.C., to an enormous degree, have followed and supported that effort because they want to keep each other safe as well.

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