Overdose crisis ‘not forgotten’ amid pandemic

Overdose crisis ‘not forgotten’ amid pandemic

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Minister of Health Adrian Dix. (Photo: Government of B.C. Flickr)

Osoyoos Times Staff

The province is not slowing down the response to the overdose crisis amid the global pandemic, as Tuesday marked the four-year anniversary of B.C. declaring a public health emergency.

Three deaths in the last 24 hours linked to long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland bring the total number of COVID-19-related deaths in B.C. to 72.

There were 27 new test-positive COVID-19 cases in B.C. Tuesday according to Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix who gave their daily update from Victoria Tuesday.

A total of 141 positive COVID-19 tests have occurred in the Interior Health region, including three new cases related to the outbreak among a group of temporary foreign workers now quarantined in on-site housing at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. in West Kelowna, bringing the total number of positive tests related to the outbreak to 23.

B.C. has a total of 1,517 cases province-wide, with 942 people fully recovering.

Henry was pleased to see the federal government follow B.C.’s lead requiring self-isolation plans for those arriving at Canada’s borders, noting 2,337 people arrived in B.C. over the last few days, with 24 of those making use of offered accommodations to self-isolate.

There are 134 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in B.C. today, 11 of which are in the Interior Health region.

COVID-19 is not the only public health emergency in B.C. right now, Henry said, noting the fourth anniversary of the ongoing overdose crisis and the public health emergency declared in B.C.

Those suffering from drug addiction have not been forgotten, Henry said, acknowledging there are challenges in delivering provincial services like supervised consumption sites.

“I want you to know you are not alone. We are not slowing down our response or taking our focus off the importance of being able to support people who use drugs and their families and our communities. We’re not letting this crisis overtake the importance of our response to our overdose crisis here,” Henry said.

“There have been a number of movements already around emergency housing options and we are continuing to work on making sure people who need those housing options are able to access them in the coming days.”

Responding to reports of traffic on BC Ferries and in rural vacation spots in B.C., Dix said the data may not match the anecdotal evidence. People in B.C. are “overwhelmingly” following  provincial health orders, Dix said.

“Like everything else, when that happens, when people don’t do it, it amplifies its significance because everyone is doing it and many people are sacrificing,” Dix said. “There was a feeling I know in some places that was much stronger than the data from BC Ferries supported.”

Henry said there is no benefit to “trying to block people from coming into an area.”

“It’s not going to prevent the transmission of this virus, necessarily. Having said that, what we want is everybody to lay low and stay home, but you do need essential services,” Henry said. “For example we know there is a bunch of students this past weekend who finished their university and are returning home. There are legitimate reasons people may need to check up on family and friends.”

The province will be updating media and the public on COVID-19 modelling on Friday.