I’ve asked for three measures that I think will help everyone withstand COVID as the next waves come in my Jan 13, 2022 Vancouver Is Awesome op-ed “3 things that should happen to better protect B.C.’s most vulnerable against COVID-19” and in my January 17 news piece in the Georgia Straight “Morgane Oger: In the pandemic, we must accommodate those with disabilities and leave no one behind“
I’d like to see the municipalities and the provinces work together to implement and enforce ventilation and filtering requirements that address aerosols in public spaces. I’d like to see our provinces adequately accommodate households impacted by COVID-19. I’d like to see the provinces require proof of immunization in more indoor public spaces and at the workplace.
In this post, I am expanding on the data behind my three asks
Because I have a background in engineering and sciences, I am fond of evidence-based policy, the best of which are justified by data from objective studies. So let’s look at the data and projections.
Provincial and Federal Centers for Disease Control have been working diligently with BC’s health authorities to keep us all safe by implementing health orders that mitigate the fast-moving situation. The positive results of their hard work are clearly visible in hospitalization and fatality statistics when compared to those of similar regions.
A September 2021 study by Oxford University and the UK National Institute for Health Research reported 1 in 3 patients who contracted COVID was experiencing at least one “Long Covid” symptom 3-6 months after the event. The most common symptoms were breathing problems, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain and anxiety/depression.
In a its December 7, 2020 opinion piece Nature Medicine reviewed the state of research on COVID. The article stated that “estimates of the number of people with long COVID vary widely while providing stark projections based on research: In July , the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that one in five patients 18–34 years of age without chronic medical conditions and with a positive outpatient test had not fully recovered by 2–3 weeks after testing, and a research center in Rome found that 87% of 143 patients reported persistence of at least one symptom 60 days after onset of the disease. According to a preprint published in October  that has not yet undergone peer review, 24% of 233 patients still had symptoms at 90 days after infection. Data from a smartphone app, as reported by the COVID Symptom Study, showed that one in ten patients with COVID-19 have symptoms after 3 weeks. Given the scale of the pandemic, if even only a small percentage of the tens of millions of infected people worldwide develop long COVID, a staggeringly large number of people would need long-term follow-up and treatment.”
1.6 million households have a child five years old or under and there are over 200,000 kids under 5 in BC who can not be immunized. We must support households that include a person who cannot be exposed to COVID and who can not risk anyone bringing it home from outside. People
The projections in the January 6 report of the independent and highly-regarded BC COVID Modelling Group tell us that Omicron is established and spreading in the province, and that infection rates are growing at 25% per day, doubling every 3-3.6 days. They tell us that demand on hospitals will be severe in the upcoming weeks at 4x to 10x what was seen in previous waves. The report expresses the Government of Canada’s concern that COVID may be spread as aerosol droplets so COVID virus particles lingers in a space for a considerable amount of time and do not fall to the ground as quickly as larger droplets. They need to be moved away by air flow through filtration. The report also tells us an unvaccinated person has the same risk of catching this strain of COVID-19 as a vaccinated person does but faces 20x the risk of hospitalization and an average hospital stay. Currently, half of hospitalizations due to COVID are for unimmunized persons and prediction are that the situation is set to worsen.
Reducing the number of unvaccinated persons will significantly decrease demand on hospital beds which are predicted to be overrun.
The report projects the peak for the Omicron wave may happen as early as late January. The report also tells us what we have already been told by the BC CDC: that without an additional booster, previous immunization is no longer effective at preventing infection within 20 weeks of the last jab. Projections based on models are susceptible to uncertainty, but they give an indication of an evidence-based estimate of future outcomes based on past results.
The report warns that there is a 50% chance of someone being infected with COVID when ten persons are gathered and that the likelihood jumps to 92% when 50 persons are together. It projects that most British Columbians will have come into contact with Omicron by the time the wave has passed.
Everyone able to get immunized for #COVID needs do so as soon as possible.Tweet
The report recommends that everyone able to get immunized do so as soon as possible.
Why this is so important – and why now
Statistics Canada reports over 1.6 million families with at least one child 5 or under in Canada. In BC, there are over 200,000 children under 5, none of which can be vaccinated as of January 2022. If a person’s participation in society is impacted by COVID due to a disability, Canada must not leave them to fend on their own without a safety net.
Municipalities need to work with lawmakers to implement and enforce building codes that address #COVID19 in #HVAC by removing aerosols from all indoor public spaces.Tweet
Effective face coverings such as N-95 masks do help keep us safe from inhaling COVID when we wear them, but they only work when actually worn and nobody wears a mask 24 hours a day. The spaces in which we spend time need to be upgraded to remove the virus and upgrading ventilation will do this effectively.
People in households with an unvaccinated person face a serious problem: The more widespread COVID is, the higher the probability that an vaccinated family member will catch COVID in a public space and bring it into the home. As long as not all members of a household are vaccinated, everyone in that home needs to keep everyone safe from COVID and needs to avoid all indoor public spaces. They need to be accommodated at work and in services – including provincial harm-reduction programs.
We need to upport those who need it most
In considering the test for establishing a “physical disability” as a personal characteristic protected from discrimination, the concept of disability has generally been held by the Courts to involve “a physiological state that is involuntary and has a degree of severity, of permanence, and/or persistence”.
The same legal decisions have upheld that “disability impairs a person’s ability to carry out the normal functions of life to some degree and poses an impediment to a person’s participation in the economic or other areas of life which the Code seeks to protect against”.
British Columbians who cannot be vaccinated for COVID due to medical reasons fall under Human Rights protection under the personal characteristic of disability. Although my knowledge is focused on BC and Federal human rights law, the same most likely applies to any Canadian, anywhere.
All service providers, employers, landlords, and Government agencies must therefore reasonably accommodate unvaccinated persons up to the point of experiencing undue hardship wherever the BC Human Rights Code applies. Human rights law apples in services, in employment, and in housing.
It’s also important to note that BC also has a publication section of human rights that applies to inciting discrimination on explicitly-prohibited grounds. That comes to mind when I read discriminatory tracts targeting unvacinated persons. If the reason a person is unvaccinated falls under disability protections, such publication are prohibited discrimination. The ruling in my own case Oger v Whatcott BCHRT 2017 (7) explains why.
In an October 2021 BC Human Rights Commission policy guide, the Commissioner wrote that the proof-of-vaccination requirement is justified from a human rights perspective and will result in increased protection for those among us who are most vulnerable to the virus. Asking for this proof is needed as long as the threat from COVID remains high.
As a whole, we have a collective interest as Canadians to keep our society going and to keep British Columbians working while keeping us all safe and there will always be some of us who can not be immunized against COVID who we cannot leave behind. I have two teenage children in school. Like many separated parents experienced, I view my children’s safety concerns as non-negotiable. I am also mindful that like so many Canadians, both me and my partner experience underlying risks, like my parents also do.
Like many other Canadians, keeping everyone in our family safe is why we abstained from many holiday rituals in recent weeks that we would have loved to enjoy. I strongly believe we must leave no one behind and many households have a member who cannot be vaccinated.
This is why I expect our health authorities to ensure that in any indoor spaces, everyone is up to date on their COVID vaccinations like they are, or has a medical exemption.
It is why I would like to see bylaws and construction standards to ensure all indoor spaces are effectively ventilated or filtered to protect against airborne viruses such as the Coronavirus.
And it is why I want to see that we support everyone impacted by an inability to access immunization and needs to be kept safe from it. These people should be accommodated as long as their vulnerability to COVID persists.
We are all concerned about the future. We are all tired, and this is a time when it is inappropriate to engage in divisive politics by spreading disinformation to cause fear and anxiety. We’re always better off working together than sniping at strangers. I pledge that whatever comes, I will listen to my own advice and will do my part in making things better. I hope you and our neighbours will join me.
We need to accomodate everyone impacted by an inability to access immunization for #COVID19 as long as their vulnerability to COVID persists.Tweet
Government of Canada: COVID-19: Main modes of transmission, <https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/health-professionals/main-modes-transmission.html>
BC Human Rights Commission Policy Guide: COVID-19 Vaccine Card Guidance, <https://bchumanrights.ca/wp-content/uploads/COVID-19-vaccine-guidance-Oct.-2021-update.pdf>
Oxford University: Over a third of COVID-19 patients diagnosed with at least one long-COVID symptom, <https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2021-09-29-over-third-covid-19-patients-diagnosed-least-one-long-covid-symptom>
BC COVID Modelling Group Jan 6 Video link, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfP6OOY6W2c&feature=youtu.be>
Sunrise Poultry Processors Ltd. v United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 1518, 2017 CanLII 26448 (BC LRB), <https://canlii.ca/t/h3m7d>
Provinces could mandate COVID-19 vaccines <https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/duclos-mandatory-vaccination-policies-on-way-1.6307398>
Oger v. Whatcott (No. 7), 2019 BCHRT 58 (CanLII), https://canlii.ca/t/hzdgk