Straight talk from doctors on COVID-19: How to stay safe this winter

November 26, 2020

There is a lot of information being shared about the latest COVID-19 restrictions ordered by BC’s Provincial Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry. It is easy to become confused, and it may be tempting for some to disregard the orders – in place until January 8th – because sometimes it just feels like it’s all too difficult.


We interviewed Dr Jaron Easterbrook and Dr Aaron Childs, Victoria-area family physicians, for some simple, straight-forward guidance on what to do to stay safe now and throughout the winter. With the number of COVID-19 cases at all-time highs in our province, taking these steps will keep you, your families and vulnerable people in your community safe. 

What are the top three things people need to do to help curb the big increase in COVID-19 cases in BC, based on the orders from the Provincial Health Officer?

Dr Easterbrook: I would say, when in doubt, ask yourself if it’s an activity you absolutely need to do right now. If it isn’t, then err on the side of caution. The most critical steps we can take are:

  • Stick with your household: Spend time with those who live with you and say “no” to in-person social activities with others, whether that’s indoors or even outdoors.

  • Stay close to home: Don’t travel outside your community/health authority region unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  • Wear your mask: Wearing a mask when indoors at public facilities is mandatory – always. And remember, your nose is connected to your lungs, so be sure your mask covers your mouth and nose. 

Also, always remember what I hope has become routine for most of us: practice good hygiene and maintain physical distance from others. 

What do you say to people who genuinely feel they are tired of the restrictions? Perhaps they may not have a lot of cases in their communities, and wonder why they need to take these measures?

Dr Childs: If you feel your community is safe and you don’t have to take these steps, you have only to look at Manitoba, which went in very little time from zero cases to a crisis that is overwhelming hospitals. We all need to be diligent because things can get worse for a community within the blink of an eye. With travel it is easy for someone to bring COVID-19 from another community when asymptomatic. This is what has been happening across the country in places with previously low cases of COVID-19.

I would say that the fastest way to get back on our feet as a province is to take these steps now. How we celebrate the holiday season, and live for the rest of the winter, will be shaped by the steps we take today.

Is this a matter of just riding out the pandemic until the vaccine is delivered? Everyone keeps saying it is coming soon?

Dr Easterbrook: Unfortunately, that’s not the way things will play out. First of all, vaccines need to be distributed from the manufacturers to countries all over the world. Canada does not have any vaccine producers in our country, so we will purchase vaccines from manufacturers from others. While some are close to shipping their vaccines, it will take time for them to get to BC. Then, a distribution plan needs to be in place. 

Those in long term care and first responders will likely be the first to get the vaccine, with frail and elderly people to follow. It will take time to go through the various groups on a huge scale to the point where we are all safe. It may take up to a year for everyone to be vaccinated, with the young and healthy likely the last to receive the vaccine.  

Can you still have a “bubble of six?”

Dr Childs: Only if that bubble consists of the people who live in your household. Plain and simple. For the next few weeks, at least, connect with friends and others online. Please, no in person visits with people outside your household!

Can university and college students studying in communities outside our region come home for Christmas?

Dr Childs: Yes, they can. That said, I would suggest they limit their social contacts for five days prior to travelling home to reduce the chance of bringing COVID-19 with them. 

With these restrictions, what about kids in schools? What can they do to stay safe and to not bring COVID-19 home?

Dr Childs: I would advise following the protocols at your child’s school. Ask your kids to wash their hands before and during school, stay in their school bubble in class and on the playground, and wash their hands immediately when they come home from school. Most importantly, stay home if they feel sick to avoid spreading any illness to their school bubble and the community.    

What is your experience as physicians during this pandemic? 

Dr Easterbrook: We know British Columbians are tired. We too are tired. We’re working extra hard and taking extra steps to protect our patients and be safe while ensuring everyone gets the care they need. COVID-19 restrictions slow everything down, especially the number of people we can safely see each day in the office. We also worry about our own families, about not bringing COVID-19 home with us. The best thing we can do is to be patient, recognize that everyone has extra stress right now, and think of others by working together to get us all through this particularly difficult time.

Do you have questions on how to limit the spread of COVID-19? E-mail us at