Jan. 25, 2022

We're getting mixed messaging on the pandemic

Clarity has been one of the hallmarks of the communications around the Coronavirus pandemic in our province for better than two years. Factual information has been the backbone of the battle against viruses and variants. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s regular television updates instilled almost total faith and confidence in the system when the pandemic began. She turned into somewhat of a cult hero.

Those appearances are no longer something to rely on. There have been faux pas that bring the validity of her reports into question. Communications is in shambles, and once that happens people begin to doubt and that’s a threat to the health crisis. They already have pandemic fatigue.

It started when the daily case counts were no longer an accurate reading of the severity or prevalence of variants. Personal testing by the public resulted in results not being included in the daily reports. Dr. Henry kept reporting the number of cases identified though the provincial testing process but cautioned they were inaccurate. That renders the daily figures useless. Quoting admittedly-false and/or misleading figures, to be frank, is irresponsible.

The only accurate daily count is the number of patients in hospital, and in critical care.

However, the number of out-of-region patients transferred into other health regions is not being reported regularly. Island Health was one of the main destinations for transient patients and that skewed our daily figures.

Twice last week health officials apologized for confusing communications around changing protocols. First it was the order extending gym closures indefinitely. A day later, there were multiple changes to the self-isolation guidelines on the BC Centre for Disease Control website, which led to the second apology.

Even after that, some experts say there is still confusion about the recent changes.

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau says there’s confusion, a sense of not really understanding how decisions are being made and how communication strategies are being worked out. 

“When you look at the difference between press conferences, when at one point, Dr. Henry’s saying Omicron is mild, and then at another point, she’s saying it’s not mild, and then she’s saying we shouldn’t say it’s mild, but then she says it’s mild. This is very confusing for the public,” Furstenau said in an interview with CHEK TV.

It’s like trying to put tooth paste back into the tube. Despite efforts to clear up some of the confusion, many people are still confused. They just want to return to their daily lives, go to a hockey game, socializie and go to church.