A server wears a protective face mask as he passes a coffee to a customer in Vancouver, Wednesday, May 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

What happens if B.C. re-enters a COVID lockdown? Psychologist says we’ll be OK

UBC professor says cooperation between health officials, politicians has kept pandemic messaging simple

As health officials ask British Columbians to begin restriction their social interactions, a psychologist believes the province can handle another semi-lockdown.

“I think there will be a grumbling acceptance. People will say ‘okay, we’ve got to do this,’” said Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist and psychiatry professor at UBC.

“Most people will; there will inevitably be a small minority of people who are going to not adhere to this.”

Taylor said people shouldn’t be surprised to hear health officials ask them to shrink social circles they may have expanded this summer. B.C. hit a record 124 COVID-19 new cases on Friday, and 294 over the weekend, even as cases began to level off this week.

READ MORE: 1,100 active COVID-19 cases in B.C. following continued surge over weekend

Speaking Monday (Aug. 31), provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said B.C. was entering a new stage of the pandemic.

“The increase in the number of new cases we have seen over the past few weeks remains a concern for all of us,” Henry said.

She said that while the summer months – which saw B.C. loosen restrictions and allow non-essential travel for the first time since March – were good for people’s mental health, it was time to slow down again.

“We’ve talked many times that we will likely have a second wave,” Henry said, adding that it would likely coincide with the annual cold and flu season.

“As the cooler weather arrives, we all have to be ready… as we step into our offices, our workplaces, our schools, we need to take a step back from some of the social interactions we have had this summer.”

Taylor said that although recent events – like a controversial back-to-school commercial with Henry – may have undermined public trust a bit, British Columbians are still largely understanding of their message.

READ MORE: Teachers’ union slams B.C.’s return-to-school plan; says ad with Dr. Henry is ‘unrealistic’

Unlike the U.S., where the pandemic has become a political issue, the psychologist said that here politicians have moved in lockstep with public health officials, rather than against them.

“The whole issue of adherence to public health measures has become a politicized, from wearing a mask to whether you should open up the community… in the United States, you’ve got this whole ‘give me liberty or give me death’ approach,” Taylor said.

It’s also important to remember that health officials shouldn’t be idolized.

“We put health officials like Dr. Bonnie Henry up on a pedestal,” he said. “We regard them as infallible superheroes, which they’re not; they’re just experts trying to do their best under conditions of uncertainty,

But the way B.C.’s health officials present the new lockdown will be key.

“If they make this more predictable and controllable, then that’s what makes things less stressful,” he said.

“You know, something like ‘the more more you adhere to this, the better our chances of getting over this.’”

For people concerned about cutting off social interactions, especially as the weather worsens, Taylor said to remember that B.C. has gotten through this before.

“None of us want to be here… but it won’t be foreign territory.”

That should help people avoid some of the pitfalls of the first lockdown – panic-buying toilet paper and baking supplies – while providing a template for what did help.

READ MORE: Amid COVID-19 panic, B.C. psychologist urges shoppers to not clear out grocery stores

“People should ask themselves ‘what went well in lockdown last time? What didn’t go so well?’” Taylor said, while reminding themselves that while getting together might seem like a good way to blow off steam, it will only hurt in the long run.

“It’s going to be wintertime. If people choose to go out and party, it will be in enclosed, poorly ventilated spaces which is just a recipe for the spread of infection… that’s just going to prolong the pandemic and prolong lockdown for everyone.”

Taylor said routines, planning activities, getting outside and staying active will all be essential to getting through the next months.

“We focus on how badly people are doing, or how anxious or irritable or depressed they are,” he said. “Some of us may be distressed or bummed out… but those feelings should pass for most people. People tend to be very resilient.”


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

British ColumbiaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Fraser-Nicola BC Liberal Party candidate Jackie Tegart with supporters on the Ashcroft bridge, Oct. 21, 2020. Tegart is the frontrunner in the riding after the initial vote count, with mail-in ballots to be counted starting on Nov. 6. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Liberal incumbent Jackie Tegart holds narrow lead over Aaron Sumexheltza of NDP

Initial count is complete, and mail-in ballots will determine who wins in Fraser-Nicola

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

(from l) Fraser-Nicola candidates Jonah Timms (BC Green Party), Jackie Tegart (BC Liberal Party), and Aaron Sumexheltza (BC NDP). The polls have now closed and the counting has started. (Photo credit: Submitted)
Results awaited in Fraser-Nicola as polls have now closed

Counting of advance and election day votes has begun; mail-in votes to be counted starting Nov. 6

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

Provincial Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau speaks at Provincial Green Party headquarters at the Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe in Victoria. (Arnold Lim / Black Press)
VIDEO: Furstenau leads BC Greens to win first riding outside of Vancouver Island

Sonia Furstenau became leader of BC Greens one week before snap election was called

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Most Read