March 25, 2020
BC’s newest political party is offering help and requesting reassurances from provincial officials concerning the concurrent impacts of Covid-19 and wildfire smoke during this year’s fire season. Speaking from Prince George, party spokesman Stuart Parker drew attention to the potential of wildfires to dramatically magnify the impact of Covid-19 infection in an already-stretched health care system. “As wildfires have grown larger and harder to control, their impact on British Columbians’ respiratory health has increased proportionately. With more cases of asthma and other respiratory problems related to higher levels of carbon and particulate during wildfire season, we have to consider seriously how this will fit into our efforts to respond to the spread of Corona virus,” he explained.
“We are not saying the government is not already on the case or that their plan is insufficient. We just asking that there be openness and collaboration. People in wildfire-impacted communities, especially those like Taylor and Prince George whose industrial sector is already impacting residents’ respiratory health year-round, need some reassurance now, not in two months when the fires begin in earnest,” Parker added. “This is especially important if there are plans to move people in quarantine, self-isolation or hospital beds to locations that will not face the same impacts in Coastal BC. I would rather my asthmatic partner and I know now whether she might have to move temporarily to a coastal community less impacted by high particulate and carbon levels, and what supports might be in place to handle temporary relocation.”
Concerns Grow Regarding Northern Camps
BC’s Ecosocialist Party remains especially concerned for industrial workers. “We are already on the record,” explained party spokesperson Alannah New-Small, “as opposing the March 19th reopening of the northern work camps and the suspension of all rules concerning large gatherings in the construction sector. 1000-person mess halls remain open. The government continues to treat its Site C vanity project as an essential service similar to a hospital. But the addition of wildfires to this already-toxic mix of easy transmission, no government monitoring and remoteness from hospitals and doctors is stunningly irresponsible.”
The party also raised concerns about firefighters whose age and location might render them ineligible for Covid-19 testing. “Many firefighters come from an age group that is prioritized lowest for testing. Asymptomatic workers might still infect others working at close quarters or become symptomatic during work at great risk to their health. No firefighter should be deployed without firs testing negative.”
The party continues to call for the BC government rescinding its March 19th large crowd exemption for building trades and industrial workers.