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‘It’s not the old COVID’: Whistler doctor urges B.C. to overcome pandemic fatigue

A Whistler doctor is challenging British Columbians to overcome their COVID-19 fatigue, as the province finds itself in a race between virus variants and vaccinations.

Dr. Cathy Zeglinski, a family and sports medicine physician, has penned an open letter in the Pique News Magazine calling on Whistler residents — and other B.C. communities — to look at what they can do as individuals to slow the spread.

The effort is more important now than at any point in the pandemic, given the arrival of the highly virulent P.1 (Brazilian) and B.1.1.7 (U.K.) variants, she argued.

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“It’s not the old COVID, it’s a new COVID, highly infectious, infects the young and old, infects the healthy and can be deadly, so please, we need to take this seriously,” she told Global News.

It’s an issue Zeglinski is intimately familiar with. She’s seen the effects first hand as a doctor, but also as a friend. A couple she’s close with, both 48 years old, has been hospitalized after contracting the virus while dining indoors.

“One has had a stroke and is on blood thinners and his wife is across the hall on blood thinners, their children, 14 and six, are home alone because they have COVID,” she said.

“They’re being supported but no one can enter the house.”

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Whistler has been hard hit by the P.1 variant, which is believed to have arrived in the community via out-of-province visitors.

It resulted in nearly 1,700 cases in the resort community between January and mid-April, and prompted a mass-vaccination campaign for Whistler residents.

Zeglinski said government communication about fighting the pandemic has been lacking in areas, and that public health is never perfect in its approach.

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But she said that shouldn’t stop British Columbians from doing what they can to curb the spread.

“It’s not time during the middle of a fire to bicker about who did something wrong and who didn’t communicate right and who should be doing something different, you just take everything that you have and you fight the fire,” she said.

“It’s not in your control what our government is doing, it’s up to you to take control of what you are doing.”

So what does Zeglinski recommend?

Number one on the list is to follow public health orders, which she said are based on the best available evidence.

Number two is to get vaccinated with the first shot that becomes available.

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Zeglinski also recommended taking extra steps to ventilate indoor environments, and for people to eat their lunch outside instead of in their offices.

She advises people to consider wearing a medical-grade mask rather than a cloth one now that there is no longer a shortage of protective equipment.

And she said people should get outside as much as possible — but to ensure they aren’t congregating with other people when they do it.

“Those breaks in the public health measures happen where you inadvertently share a water bottle, you inadvertently don’t have your mask on and are now really close together, you’re doing sport where you’re breathing heavy but the air is not moving,” she said.

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People looking to get outdoors, she said, should find trails, parks and other outdoor areas to explore in their neighbourhoods that aren’t busy or well known.

And she’s encouraging people to challenge their friends and neighbours to do the same with the hashtag #ridthevidcleanup.

As of Friday, there were a record 10,081 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C., with another 15,877 people isolating due to possible exposure.

There were also a record 425 people in hospital and a record 127 in intensive care.

B.C. is currently averaging more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day, and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry warned Thursday that if people do not reduce their social contacts, it could go up to 3,000 a day.

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