When British Columbian provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was asked about opening the border to the US, her words were diplomatic, but her face told a different story. While she talked about the situation in the US being ‘very concerning’, the momentary grimace as she is asked the question about people being allowed to travel freely to the US and back, suggests that a more honest answer might have been “I had a nightmare about that last week, and I couldn’t get back to sleep”.
The video is cued at 39:50 into a long briefing about the Corona Virus, where the question starts. I was reviewing the video because it has some good parts, near the beginning about statistics and modelling of the virus, and I just happened upon this question.
For a bit of background on this, the province of British Columbia is separated from the rest of Canada by the Rocky Mountains, and so the two closest large(ish) Cities to Vancouver — BC’s largest metropolis — are Seattle and Portland. As a result, British Columbians have pretty close ties to the US, and many are quite accustomed to travelling back and forth across the border. For this reason it is entirely reasonable that people are itching to get back across the border, and so the question was probably not unexpected.
British Columbia is no stranger to the Corona Virus. The greater Vancouver region has such close ties to China, that a 60-Minutes episode once nicknamed it “Hongcouver”. Surprisingly, though, DNA tracking points to the majority of strains that BC suffered having traveled via the USA.
Happily, for BC, Dr. Henry knows epidemics well, and she was given full support of the government in dealing with the Pandemic. After an early spike, BC was able to get a good hand on the pandemic and quickly squashed the curve (the numbers on the graph below are raw case counts per day. Red line is 7 day average). Right now, the province has beaten the virus thoroughly enough that a recent jump to 25 cases in a single day is seen as cause for mild alarm.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said just south of the border. Donald Trump has so thoroughly sabotaged (and I don’t use that word lightly) the US response to the pandemic, that I don’t see the border reopening anytime this year … and there seem to be many officials across Canada that are about as fearful of the thought of the border opening as I am.