Dr. James Heilman

Now is the time to double down on collective efforts, Cranbrook doctor says

Even with Christmas upon us, we must not give in to complacency of pandemic fatigue

With B.C.’s extended COVID-19 restrictions announced on Monday, holiday gatherings and events won’t be possible this year. And as we approach the one year mark of living in a world with COVID-19, pandemic fatigue has set in for many people.

As the Canadian Press reported in early November, tightened restrictions due to rising case numbers are causing some Canadians to abandon the safety precautions they have been taking into consideration for months.

Dr. James Heilman, an Emergency Physician at East Kootenay Regional Hospital (EKRH), says now is the time to double down on our efforts.

“The vaccine is coming soon. Now is the time to double down on our collective efforts,” Heilman said in an email to the Townsman. “Even though only about one to three per cent of people die from this disease, many more are still sick despite months since being affected. We do not know what percentage of people will have permanent problems.”

According to the latest data from the BC Centre for Disease Control, there were 46 cases among East Kootenay residents between November 20th and December 3rd.

“This only includes East Kootenay residents,” Heilman explained. “[This data], for example, does not include people whose main residence is not here. While B.C. has not done horrible, we are also not doing great when it comes to managing this disease. Diseases that spread exponentially have a habit of sneaking up on a population.”

The rising case numbers are cause for concern among health officials and as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlined Monday, the reason for the extension on restrictions until the new year.

The holidays can be a hard time of year for many people, pandemic aside. According to an Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. press release issued Monday, COVID-19 protocols are expected to compound mental health and addiction emergencies during the holiday season.

READ MORE: Paramedics issue ‘triple threat’ warning for holidays

Interior Health recommends taking a look at the same practices they set forth at the beginning of the pandemic to help manage pandemic-related anxiety.

These practices include maintaining a routine, limiting your media intake, staying virtually connected with family and friends, getting fresh air and exercise, taking advantage of downtime, asking for help, and keeping perspective (focusing on doing your part to fight the spread).

READ MORE: Taking care of your mental health during COVID-19

Heilman says that the health care system can only do so much to specifically protect the elderly population and that the lasting effects of the disease are still unknown. Consider that as another reason to stay motivated to slow the spread.

“This disease causes a great deal of sickness and death, especially in older folks. We know that this disease is spread by close contact, especially when this occurs indoors. Our heath system is already under stress from COVID-19, yet patients with strokes and MI still need care,” he said.

Heilman adds that he will not be travelling over the holidays or having friends or family over to visit.

“I’m not willing to put my parent’s lives at risk,” he said.

People have recently taken to social media and to the streets to protest the provincial mask mandate and the restrictions set in place.

Two anti-mask rallies have been held in Cranbrook recently, and Facebook comments show that some people still plan on having gatherings over the holidays.

B.C. residents are subject to a $200 fine if they are actively encouraging other people to attend a gathering or event.

Heilman says things could get a lot worse than they currently are. For example, last week it was reported that Alberta has reached out to the federal government and Canadian Red Cross for help in setting up field hospitals due to their hospital capacity being overwhelmed.

“If we look at other areas of Canada or the world we can see the benefits of social distancing, masks and travel restrictions in places like Australia, Taiwan, eastern Canada and New Zealand,” Heilman said. “We can also see the harms of not taking COVID seriously enough such as Alberta, the UK and the United States. Alberta’s ICU’s are full, their hospitals are running out of oxygen [and] they are trying to set up field hospitals. While the vaccine is coming soon, it’s unlikely to be widely available for some time.”

So, in the meantime, it’s important that everyone continue to do their part and work together. When asked if further closures and restrictions may be coming, specifically with regards to schools, Heilman said they may be required if case numbers continue to rise.

“With respect to further closures of schools it depends on the actions of individuals, governments, and administration,” said Heilman. “Based on current policies and behaviours I fear further school and business closures may be required. Closing school should be the last thing we do, however. There are many actions we can currently take, such as requiring masks in schools and improving ventilation, that will decrease the risk of closures.”

Lastly, Heilman says that if you think you have symptoms of COVID-19, 811 is there to support you during the process of testing. Hospitals are there to assist anyone with health issues and masks are required in all medical facilities. Masks are provided upon arrival to the EKRH.

“If you have other health issues, such as chest pain or abdominal pain, it is safe to go to emergency departments across B.C.,” he said. “Please wear a mask.”



corey.bullock@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

The Greater Vernon Ringette Association is one of six Vernon sports groups benefitting from B.C.’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (Morning Star file photo)
Relief funds keep Okanagan in the game

Clubs at risk of closure due to inability to offer programs and fundraise

Golden Rotary Club president Isabelle Simard presents a check in Invermere to the winner of Golden’s bingo. (Michele LaPointe photo)
Golden Bingo continues to grow; expands to other BC communities

The money is going back into the community through various Rotary projects

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Most Read