Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)

Dr. Albert de Villiers, Chief Medical Health Officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)

‘People need to start listening’: IH top doc combats COVID-19 misconceptions

Dr. Albert de Villiers says light at the end of the tunnel will grow in step with people’s adherence to PHO guidance

Interior Health’s top doctor says it’s time for people in the region to heed the advice of public health authorities as cases of COVID-19 continue to swell in the region.

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Interior Health (IH) held its first media Q-and-A since the pandemic began, in which IH chief medical health officer Dr. Albert de Villiers addressed a number of uncertainties among the media and the public.

While de Villiers offered hints (or caveats) towards what restrictions could look like following an update from the provincial health officer (PHO) on Dec. 7, his prevailing message was in many ways an echo of the PHO’s message, now underlined for emphasis.

“People actually need to start listening, not only hearing, and actually start acting on what we’ve been saying for quite a while now,” said de Villiers, who became the region’s chief MHO in August.

Cases of the novel coronavirus have been steadily climbing in the region since October; though the region’s COVID-19 death toll remains at three, there have been 963 new cases since Nov. 12, one week before the current restrictions were announced.

De Villiers also spoke to the COVID-19 cluster in Revelstoke, which grew to 46 cases as of Dec. 1, and linked the community cluster to multiple events — this after Premier John Horgan said non-essential travel to the popular ski community was primarily to blame.

READ MORE: Former B.C. pro hockey player frustrated with COVID-deniers after horrific bout with virus

There has been noticeably more friction between some residents and the public health authorities since those restrictions were put in place. An anti-mask protester’s alleged threat to an Orchard Park Mall staff member in Kelowna is one of several examples in the region over the past week and a half.

On Wednesday, de Villiers addressed several common misconceptions circling the virus itself and the restrictions in place to control it.

For those who question why public health guidance changes month to month, de Villiers reminded that the virus is new and scientific understandings of its characteristics changes over time.

“To be flippant, I would hope our advice is a little bit different now than it used to be in March because we are learning so much,” he said, adding at this time last year when the COVID-19 was first taking shape in China, nothing was known about the virus — and there is much that remains unknown.

For those who argue a mask mandate is a violation of individual rights, de Villiers offered an analogy.

“There are lots of other things that society expects me to do; I need to wear a seat belt, it’s not an option. I need to wear pants when I’m in public, it’s not an option. It’s true, it’s my body, but I’ve still got some responsibility to decide and to make sure we can keep everybody safe and healthy.”

De Villiers said he and the province’s chief MHOs meet with Dr. Bonnie Henry three times a week to stay ahead of the virus based on the latest scientific findings.

“It’s not somebody’s opinion or some political agenda, it’s actually science-based and that’s the recommendations we make,” he said.

Some residents have drawn comparisons between COVID-19 and influenza in questioning the need for the current restrictions, but de Villiers said case data for each show “we’re still worse off with COVID,” adding vaccines and a built-up immunity to the flu have made it a tolerable risk over time.

“We’re not there yet with COVID-19,” he said.

“We need to make sure we stay vigilant and we keep it out of our long-term care centres. We make sure we keep people out of hospital so that our health care system doesn’t collapse.”

There is a concern among public health officials that COVID-19 fatigue will or has already set in, de Villiers said, but recent information on the vaccine front has him looking ahead with cautious optimism, as long as people follow the guidance being delivered.

“With a vaccine coming up, if we actually do what we’re supposed to be doing now I think we should be out of this by definitely next year this time, but hopefully by the spring or the summer it will be way better, and we’ll be relaxed and be able to get back to some of our usual activities,” he said.

READ MORE: Tourism industry has mixed reaction to government aid measures


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

Coronavirus

Just Posted

Ken Lucks is retiring from his post as principal of Mile 108 Elementary, following a 32-year career with the district. (Melissa Smalley photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Mile 108 principal bids farewell

Ken Lucks retiring after 32-year career in education

The graduating class of 2021 from Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
PHOTOS: 2021 Grads enjoy reverse grad parade in Centennial Park

Around 75 of the 90 grads showed up too the park

Miguel and Krista Vieira are looking forward to being able to spend more time with their girls Makayla, left, and Hanna. (Mandy McLelland Photography - submitted).
70 Mile General Store owners moving on

Change comes after 34 years in the family

Jenna Harvey. (Photo submitted)
RCMP looking for missing woman between 100 Mile House and Williams Lake

Jenna Harvey was last heard from a week ago and claimed to be hitchhiking north

Hunter Wilson makes a break while playing pool with Tammy Mikkelsen at the Raven Youth Activity Centre. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Raven Youth Centre reopens doors

Centre has undergone some major changes

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Most Read