Recent protests in Vancouver and Victoria against racism have numbered in the thousands, raising the specter that B.C.'s success at controlling the COVID-19 pandemic could be put in jeopardy, according to provincial health officer Bonnie Henry.
"I am disappointed because I know there are very effective ways for small groups of people to demonstrate these important issues, and to do it peacefully and to do it safely," she said June 9. "I encourage people to find those ways."
She has been in contact with health officials in the U.S. who are similarly concerned that the large demonstrations will cause a spike in COVID-19 infections. In some cases, tens of thousands of people attended rallies that were sparked by Caucasian police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis causing the death of an already handcuffed African-American man, George Floyd.
The reason why police did not enforce Henry's ban on gatherings larger than 50 people, she said, was because "we have always taken the approach of support and education for all of our orders and this is no different."
The reality that COVID-19 infections can spread rapidly at gatherings was made clear in the past week because an outbreak erupted at a family dinner in the Fraser Health region.
Henry revealed June 9 that the gathering had about 30 people and at least 15 of them have become infected.
"That is a warning sign to us all," she said. "It is not that somebody intentionally brings that into their community, to their loved ones, to their family."
So far, there have been 2,669 COVID-19 cases since the virus that has caused a global pandemic arrived in B.C. in January.
Nearly 87%, or 2,319 people have recovered from their infections.
The province's death toll from the disease stays at 167.