Pandemic Updates

On this page: COVID-19 Updates for BC | Mon­key­pox Updates for BC | Cana­di­an Pan­dem­ic Prepa­ra­tion Resources | Pan­dem­ic DIY Projects | COVID-19 Sci­ence

Last update: 2022 Sep 17

COVID-19 Updates for British Columbia

IMPORTANT: there is a new study high­light­ing the sever­i­ty and extent of BC’s Omi­cron waves. Please take a moment to read it. While the increased con­ta­gious­ness of these vari­ants caused an increase in infec­tions across the board, there were a lot more infec­tions dis­cov­ered through ret­ro­spec­tive immu­ni­ty stud­ies, and chil­dren were found to have been one of the most high­ly infect­ed groups.

Mask­ing is still the best way to beat this: invest­ing in a sup­ply of NIOSH or Health Cana­da cer­ti­fied N95, N99, N100, P95, P99, or P100 masks and know­ing how to use them effec­tive­ly can pre­vent infec­tion and seri­ous long-term injuries. Pair your mask with eye pro­tec­tion for best results, espe­cial­ly if work­ing in a health­care set­ting.

Biva­lent COVID vac­cines are com­ing: for­mu­la­tions incor­po­rat­ing Omi­cron pro­tec­tion have recent­ly been approved by Health Cana­da and are on their way to be dis­trib­uted in the next cycle of boost­er appoint­ments. Stay tuned for fur­ther updates.

Cur­rent­ly, provin­cial restric­tions have lift­ed. Full details are avail­able at the BC COVID-19 Response site. BC Tran­sit and BC Fer­ries have lift­ed all mask man­dates but still rec­om­mend wear­ing masks when­ev­er pos­si­ble, as the cur­rent­ly cir­cu­lat­ing virus vari­ants are more con­ta­gious than pre­vi­ous ones.

Pos­si­ble Infec­tion? Use the online self-assess­ment tool first (link). If you need test­ing, phone 811 to speak with a pub­lic health nurse. At-home rapid tests (link) can also be obtained at most pharmacies.

Mask Sourc­ing (link): Vita­core makes Health Cana­da cer­ti­fied N95s and N99s here in BC and ships to your front door (their masks are also car­ried at Lon­don Drugs). While I’m not affil­i­at­ed, I’ve nonethe­less test­ed a lot of dif­fer­ent brands over the past two years, and these are by far the most com­fort­able and durable. Their lab test results were top-tier as well. The qual­i­ty is worth the price. The head straps on the Can95 and Can99 mod­els are ridicu­lous­ly tough and will not break or fall off.

COVID-19 Dash­board (link): this inter­ac­tive map illus­trates BC’s COVID-19 case­load data and breaks the infor­ma­tion down by region­al health author­i­ty. Data is still being gath­ered reg­u­lar­ly, how­ev­er it is impor­tant to under­stand that the rise of home test­ing has made it more dif­fi­cult to track a por­tion of the case­load, as many of these cas­es might not be report­ed through offi­cial channels.

Child Immu­niza­tions (link): cur­rent­ly, Mod­er­na is the sole approved vac­cine for chil­dren aged 6 months to 4 years. Those 5 years of age or old­er have access to both the Mod­er­na and Pfiz­er offerings.

Adult Immu­niza­tions (link): the next sched­uled round of boost­ers runs this September.

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Monkeypox Updates for British Columbia

What’s old is new again: mon­key­pox (MPX) is a well-stud­ied mem­ber of the poxviri­dae fam­i­ly with a long his­to­ry includ­ing at least two gen­er­a­tions of vac­cine deploy­ment, in addi­tion to oth­er treat­ments estab­lished on the sci­en­tif­ic record, includ­ing cross-immu­ni­ty from pri­or small­pox vac­ci­na­tion. Unlike what we saw in the COVID-19 sit­u­a­tion, MPX is an old ene­my and we’ve had tools to deal with it for quite some time. Up until now, deploy­ment of these tools has tra­di­tion­al­ly been rare and nar­row­ly focused due to the rel­a­tive geo­graph­ic iso­la­tion of most MPX outbreaks.

Symp­toms of infec­tion begin with­in three weeks of expo­sure to the virus and include a dis­tinc­tive pim­ple- or blis­ter-like skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, headaches, mus­cle aches, exhaus­tion, sore throat, nasal con­ges­tion, or cough.

MPX can remain viable in ambi­ent con­di­tions for up to 15 days. It is spread through close con­tact, skin-to-skin con­tact, and sur­face con­t­a­m­i­na­tion (bed­ding, clothes, tow­els, toi­let seats, door han­dles, and oth­er objects an infect­ed per­son has touched). Inhala­tion via res­pi­ra­to­ry droplets is anoth­er route of expo­sure, and this forms the basis of most of the cur­rent warn­ings about sus­tained close con­tact. Most of the same dis­in­fec­tants we used against COVID-19 are also effec­tive against MPX includ­ing house­hold bleach, bulk 70% iso­propyl alco­hol, and hand san­i­tiz­ers which con­tain at least 60% iso­propyl alco­hol. In short, there’s not much of a learn­ing curve involved.

It’s also impor­tant to note that MPX is not a sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted dis­ease. Rather, it is an equal-oppor­tu­ni­ty pathogen capa­ble of infect­ing any­one at any age. While inti­mate con­tact is a more effi­cient route of expo­sure due to how the virus works, it’s not the only route, as has been demon­strat­ed in numer­ous out­breaks and super-spread­er events where no inti­mate con­tact took place.

Mask Sourc­ing (link): due to the size of the MPX virus and its abil­i­ty to attach to res­pi­ra­to­ry droplets, the eas­i­est way to approach PPE con­sid­er­a­tions is to think of every­thing in sim­i­lar terms as COVID-19. Masks that form a good face seal and are cer­ti­fied to meet the N95, N99, N100, P95, P99, or P100 stan­dards (or your coun­try’s equiv­a­lent) will pro­vide res­pi­ra­to­ry pro­tec­tion. Cloths masks, flat non-seal­ing masks, and ban­danas will not. I’ve linked the same mask man­u­fac­tur­er (Vita­core) in this sec­tion with my fel­low BC res­i­dents in mind, as local man­u­fac­tur­ing tends to be some­what more resilient than buy­ing over the bor­der or overseas.

Don’t for­get to add splash­proof eye pro­tec­tion if you’re work­ing in a health­care set­ting or poor­ly ven­ti­lat­ed area. Just like COVID-19, MPX is able to enter the body through the eyes.

Immu­niza­tions (link): the BC gov­ern­ment is mon­i­tor­ing MPX but cur­rent­ly has no plans for a mass immu­niza­tion cam­paign. Approx­i­mate­ly one out of every ten Cana­di­an MPX cas­es is occur­ring in BC.

Fed­er­al Response (link): the Cana­di­an gov­ern­ment is mon­i­tor­ing MPX infec­tions and has adopt­ed a wait-and-see approach. As of this writ­ing, the nation­al case count is approx­i­mate­ly 1000 individuals.

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Canadian Pandemic Preparation Resources

These glob­al pan­demics will con­tin­ue to cause dis­rup­tions and sup­ply shocks for the medi­um term on cer­tain prod­ucts. Expect fur­ther infla­tion, wait times, and rationing. PPE and oth­er mis­sion-crit­i­cal items have made a huge come­back since 2021 but might still remain dif­fi­cult to obtain through one’s usu­al dis­tri­b­u­tion chan­nels. The time to source alter­nate options and update your emer­gency plan is now.

1. Finan­cial Plan: make sure basic needs are cov­ered, ide­al­ly by putting a 3- to 6‑month buffer in place for finances in case of job loss or lay­off. If you can allo­cate more, do so. If your job is not yet at risk, con­sult your employ­er and see what updates they’ve made to their pan­dem­ic plans.

A key pri­or­i­ty should be min­i­miz­ing lia­bil­i­ties and prun­ing down dis­cre­tionary spend­ing in order to cre­ate a sav­ings. If you haven’t already done so, get a TFSA (link) or oth­er spe­cial­ized account at your finan­cial insti­tu­tion to dump that mon­ey into. Pay off your cred­it cards, get rid of any unnec­es­sary month­ly sub­scrip­tions, and reassess major assets and loans.

Con­tact your cred­i­tors and find out their emer­gency poli­cies. Even if you’re doing well and mak­ing all your pay­ments on time, it’s good to know what your back­up plan looks like in case things take a sour turn.

2. Home Readi­ness: con­tact util­i­ty providers to re-eval­u­ate your pric­ing and needs. Off-peak elec­tric­i­ty dis­counts and ener­gy self-assess­ments can often be help­ful. Com­par­i­son shop for Inter­net pack­ages (you’ll be sur­prised how much big ISPs are over­charg­ing). Fin­ish ener­gy-sav­ing repairs, but avoid major ren­o­va­tions unless absolute­ly nec­es­sary. Make sure your home is well main­tained and ade­quate­ly insu­lat­ed. Last but not least, if you have a sep­tic field or water well, make sure it’s work­ing prop­er­ly and get the con­tact details of at least two ser­vice com­pa­nies. Tech­ni­cians and trades remain more dif­fi­cult to access than they were before the pan­demics. Know your pric­ing and be aware of the local busi­ness ecosystem.

Don’t for­get to beef up secu­ri­ty (link). While the big spike in pan­dem­ic crimes peaked dur­ing 2020, things have still not returned to 2019 lev­els in many cities, and there con­tin­ue to be huge issues with lim­it­ed first respon­der and dis­patch resources. Do your part to respon­si­bly address secu­ri­ty needs and pre­vent crime, it helps our first responders.

3. Sup­plies: at this point, every­one should have at least two weeks of extra food, water, med­i­cine, and house­hold sup­plies on hand at all times. It’s bet­ter to aim for a three-month stock or more if your sit­u­a­tion allows, but any­thing is bet­ter than noth­ing. You want to be able to wait out peri­od­ic sup­ply dis­rup­tions, adverse weath­er events, and prod­uct short­ages. If you’re not sure what to pack, here’s a guide for food (link) and here’s one for water (link).

Shelf life varies wide­ly by prod­uct, method(s) of preser­va­tion, and stor­age con­di­tions (link). Canned goods gen­er­al­ly fare well over long peri­ods of time, as do vac­u­um-packed dry goods. Do your research before going shop­ping, test out your menu plan­ning as you go, and be pre­pared to adjust your pur­chas­es accordingly.

When in doubt, fol­low the date that’s print­ed on the pack­ag­ing of the prod­ucts you buy, and remem­ber to con­duct reg­u­lar stock rota­tion via FIFO (first in, first out). The old­est items in your stock should be con­sumed first. Nev­er use any­thing that’s reached expiry date or is show­ing signs of spoilage. If you’re trapped in a sur­vival sit­u­a­tion with no access to fresh goods, resources such as Still­Tasty (link) and Eat­By­Date (link) may be use­ful in help­ing you esti­mate risk dur­ing a worst-case scenario.

Pantry pre­pared­ness is one of those skills that takes prac­tice to get right, and the ‘set­tling-in peri­od’ to get used to this kind of rou­tine is usu­al­ly a few months. You can make the process eas­i­er and reduce acci­den­tal waste by keep­ing check­lists of your stocked items and the dates they expire.

4. First Aid: the oth­er crit­i­cal objec­tive is a well-stocked first aid kit and the skills required to use it. You can find the BC provin­cial stan­dard­ized sup­ply check­list here (link). Don’t for­get to seek out appro­pri­ate first aid train­ing through your local Red Cross (link) or St. John Ambu­lance (link).

5. Online Shop­ping: the safest way to han­dle online pur­chas­es is set­ting up a sin­gle low-lim­it cred­it card as the pay­ment method for the e‑commerce sites, then man­u­al­ly pay­ing off bal­ances via a dif­fer­ent finan­cial insti­tu­tion as they accrue. This offers three ben­e­fits: one, using a cred­it card instead of a deb­it card gen­er­al­ly pro­vides bet­ter fraud pro­tec­tion; two, keep­ing your cred­it card and bank account sep­a­rate means extra secu­ri­ty in case the cred­it card gets breached; and three, most cred­it card issuers will offer cash­back bonus­es, pur­chase pro­tec­tion, extend­ed war­ranties, and oth­er fea­tures that add up over the long run if used carefully.

As with any­thing cred­it relat­ed, the usu­al caveats apply: nev­er car­ry a bal­ance past the grace peri­od, and nev­er use auto­mat­ed transactions.

6. Fur­ther Read­ing: for those look­ing to aug­ment their emer­gency plans, or even those just start­ing out, draw­ing on the expe­ri­ence of oth­ers through sites such as The Pre­pared (link) can be extreme­ly help­ful. If you take back noth­ing else from all this, remem­ber two pieces of advice: zom­bies ruin every­thing, and always say no to tin­foil hats.

Find a healthy bal­ance in all things, includ­ing this.

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Pandemic DIY Projects

Sew and No-Sew Mask Pat­terns (link): instruc­tions for mak­ing your own masks. Be sure to fol­low the enclosed guide­lines on mate­r­i­al selec­tion, as spe­cif­ic fab­rics work bet­ter for par­tic­u­late cap­ture than others.

Every­Mask (link), Fix the Mask (link): both of these resources deal with improv­ing the safe­ty pro­files of rec­tan­gu­lar masks by more effec­tive­ly seal­ing the mask to the face using flex­i­ble mate­ri­als and a stur­dier nose bridge.

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COVID-19 Science

BC Sero-Preva­lence Study, 2022 Sep 09 (link): a cut­ting-edge study via UBC cov­er­ing 2020 Mar to 2022 Aug and out­lin­ing the extent of infec­tion anti­bod­ies in the pop­u­la­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly chil­dren. It was dis­cov­ered that the Omi­cron waves infect­ed many more peo­ple than were report­ed to pub­lic health, and chil­dren in par­tic­u­lar were heav­i­ly infect­ed by these waves.

BA.5 Video: some detailed infor­ma­tion about the dis­ease from a teach­ing nurse, cour­tesy of our friends on the oth­er side of the pond, which also explains why efforts to bring the virus under con­trol have proven so difficult.

Canada’s Office of the Chief Sci­ence Advi­sor (link): a page list­ing ongo­ing nation­al ini­tia­tives on han­dling COVID-19.

BC Cen­tre for Dis­ease Con­trol (link): provin­cial epi­demi­ol­o­gy, sit­u­a­tion reports, data down­loads, and oth­er use­ful resources.

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