British Columbia’s pandemic experience over the first half of 2020, in photos

JULY 28, 2020

After the first novel coronavirus infection was confirmed in British Columbia in late January, the province watched as case numbers soared and set out to flatten the curve. Six months after that first infection, with the reopening underway, there’s a new challenge: avoid a rebound.

By Rhianna Schmunk. Photos by Ben Nelms.
Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC; Design: Andrew McManus/CBC

It has been six months since officials announced B.C.’s first case of COVID-19. Daily life has been upended for millions, in ways both immense and intimate.

Public health officials said the best way to fight the coronavirus that causes the disease was to stay apart and stay home.

We lost connection. Libraries. Community hubs. Support centres. Shelters. Food banks. Ice rinks. Pools. Parks. Open courthouses. Restaurants. Bars. Small businesses of all kinds. Schools at every level. Access to surgeries and therapies to ease pain. Free travel. Stable income.

Coffee with a friend. Hugs. Sports. Concerts. Proms. Birthday parties. Places of worship. Weddings. Births with families in the room.

One month turned into two, then three.

Epidemiologists say those sacrifices paid off, more so than it did for many similar jurisdictions around the world. The province flattened the curve of infections and began a gradual reopening process in May. A province of just over five million, B.C. has reported just over 3,300 new cases in six months, or 0.066 per cent of the population. Fewer than 200 people have died.

During the past six months of uncertainty and anxiety, Ben Nelms, the staff photojournalist at CBC Vancouver, went out into the community to capture our changed way of working, living and being nearly every day. These photos are a portion of his work.

The work of the pandemic carries on, as the province now fights something new: keeping the resurgent virus in check following a case spike in July.

Day 1

At the B.C. Centre for Disease Control in Vancouver, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announce the province’s first presumptive case of novel coronavirus has been found on the South Coast. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

The first case

Jan. 28, 2020

After weeks of tracking developments overseas, provincial officials confirm a mysterious new virus causing fever and respiratory illness in hundreds of people throughout Asia has reached British Columbia. A local man who took a business trip to Wuhan City, China, tested positive for the novel coronavirus after returning home to B.C.’s South Coast. 

Officials are studying growing evidence showing the virus can be transmitted from person to person, although it is still not clear how easily or how sustainably. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says the province is well prepared for the virus, also called 2019-nCoV, and stresses the risk of spread in the province is low.

Flight attendants wear masks while travelling through the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 4

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces the number of people tested for the novel coronavirus in B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Testing escalates

Jan. 31, 2020

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is working around the clock to test dozens of people for the novel coronavirus. Dr. Henry says the lab, which quickly developed its own diagnostic test for the virus in January, is “stretched” by the sudden workload but processing samples as fast as possible before sending them to a national laboratory in Winnipeg for a second confirmation test.

More than 100 people are tested for the virus by Jan. 31. Henry says only one was positive. She promises weekly updates on testing, but says the risk is still low.

Day 18

A group of students crosses an intersection in downtown Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Infections surge abroad

Feb. 14, 2020

With only a handful of cases confirmed in B.C., life continues as normal for most of the province in early February. Officials start encouraging people to wash their hands thoroughly multiple times a day, while working behind the scenes to secure protective gear and materials for tests. Most British Columbians watch the worst of the pandemic unfold overseas — and on the sea. Cases of the virus aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship reach 450, including 32 Canadians. Federal officials work to bring home Canadians in China, where around 60 million people are under lockdown, to prevent the virus from spreading further.

On Feb. 11, the respiratory disease caused by the virus gets its official name from the World Health Organization (WHO): COVID-19, an acronym for the coronavirus disease of 2019, the year the virus was first identified.

People walk through a pedestrian overpass in Pacific Centre mall in downtown Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 42

A resident at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

The first care home outbreak

March 9, 2020

A man in his 80s who caught the virus at a nursing home in North Vancouver, B.C., becomes the first person in Canada to die after being diagnosed with COVID-19. The Lynn Valley Care Centre would be ravaged by an outbreak of the disease. The devastation to the elderly brings Dr. Henry to tears during a news conference on March 7.

Long-term care homes from B.C. to Ontario and Quebec would become flash points for lethal COVID-19 outbreaks, marking a grim chapter in Canada’s experience of the pandemic.

Day 44

A woman sleeps in the Pacific Centre food court in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Epidemic becomes pandemic

March 11, 2020

The WHO announces the spread of the novel coronavirus is now a global pandemic, and urges countries to launch an all-out war on the virus through rigorous testing, tracking, training and treatment.

A few private schools in B.C. close, large events are cancelled and medical professionals begin preparing for the possibility that medical resources could be stretched thin.

Dr. Henry reiterates the value of rigorous handwashing — “like you've been chopping jalapenos and you need to change your contacts” — physical distancing, protecting more vulnerable populations, and regularly monitoring one’s health for symptoms.

She begins holding news conferences six days a week, as the pandemic dominates the news.

Day 45

Commuters at the YVR-Airport Canada Line station in Richmond, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

‘The world changed’

March 12, 2020

In a single day, professional sports seasons including basketball, baseball and hockey are suspended. Concerts and events are cancelled. Large gatherings are banned. More schools shut down. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, go into isolation after she is confirmed to have COVID-19. Officials tell Canadians abroad to come home and stay home as travel falls into chaos. Stocks tank. Cruises are out of the question. B.C. has officially banned gatherings of more than 250 people.

Life transforms faster than messages can fly between friends and family on one Wednesday evening. The pandemic, for many, begins to feel uncomfortably real.

Dr. Henry would later say, “the world changed on March 12.”

Commuters ride a Canada Line train in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 49

Diners at a White Spot restaurant in Richmond, B.C., watch Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announcing travel restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

No more large gatherings

March 16, 2020

The limit on gatherings in B.C. shrinks from 250 to 50. Any business, public space or event that can’t accommodate the rule is shut down. More than 30,000 non-essential surgeries are cancelled to free up hospital space.

The social landscape in many B.C. communities changes to encourage social distancing, a public health practice of avoiding crowds and large gatherings to slow the spread of a virus.

Health officials across the country say the goal is to avoid swamping the health-care system with COVID-19 patients. The intervention is known as "flattening the curve.”

Canada further seals itself off from the rest of the world, announcing its borders will soon close for non-essential travel to nearly everyone who isn’t a Canadian citizen or permanent resident — though the U.S. border stays open.

A man walks through an empty Richmond Centre mall in Richmond, B.C. Shopping malls, clothing boutiques, beauty stores, restaurants and retailers of all sizes close, leaving mostly pharmacies, banks, gas stations, hospitals and grocery stores as the only places still up and running. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)
International passengers arrive at Vancouver International Airport to screens featuring Canada’s Chief Health Public Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)
Passengers at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on March 16, the day Canada closes its borders to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident — with a small number of exceptions. Governments advise against international travel, telling citizens who are abroad to immediately return home. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Thousands of British Columbians begin to work from home as provincial officials tell everyone to stay in their residences as much as possible. Commuter traffic evaporates and city centres grow eerily quiet. Businesses close, one after the other after the other.

Panic-buying and hoarding begins. Toilet paper is, inexplicably, one of the first commodities snatched up from supermarket shelves.

Day 50

Empty shelves at a Real Canadian Superstore grocery store in Richmond, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Schools close indefinitely

March 17, 2020

Every school across the province is closed to hinder the spread of the virus, further upending the lives of 500,000 schoolchildren and their families. Students from kindergarten through Grade 12 are sent home indefinitely. No one has a date for when schools might reopen, leading to fears younger children will fall behind on the development of academic fundamentals and social skills. Older ones worry they will miss milestones like graduation day. 

With campuses also closed, many university students move back in with their parents to tackle the first phase of adulthood from their childhood bedrooms.

Parents at home, mostly women, scramble to balance the roles of employee, caregiver and teacher’s assistant. Some face the prospect of layoffs as the economy falls apart.

Vancouver shuts down bars and restaurants across the city to stop St. Patrick’s Day from becoming an epidemiological disaster.

A hopeful patron peers into a closed bar in Vancouver promoting St. Patrick’s Day. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 51

The Peace Arch-Douglas border crossing in Surrey, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

State of emergency

March 18, 2020

Officials declare a provincewide state of emergency. This allows the province to enact any measures needed to respond to, or lessen the impact of, an emergency situation. 

Canada and the United States announce they have agreed to close their border to non-essential travel. Truck drivers as well as airplane and ship crews are still allowed to move across the border without going into isolation, but trips for shopping, visits and vacations are no longer allowed. It is the first time the shared border has been closed in this way since Confederation. Not even the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, closed the border.

Day 53

A restaurant worker waits for customers in downtown Vancouver. Restaurateurs are bleeding money, unable to fill tables while bills continue piling up. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

No more dining out

March 20, 2020

Provincial officials ban all dine-in operations for restaurants, bars, lounges, breweries and other places to eat and drink, depriving British Columbians of another avenue for socializing and stress relief. The restaurant, hospitality and tourism industries face financial disaster.

The border closure between Canada and the U.S. takes effect at midnight on March 21. Canadian federal officials say people seeking asylum here will be turned away.

Loneliness and solitude are two different things. So learn countless British Columbians who live alone during the first weeks and months of isolation. Public health officials say people should only spend time with members of their own household, but many people have no one. Some don’t speak a word out loud for hours at a time. Many would go months without touching another human being, even for a simple hug.

Still, tales emerge of spontaneous solo dance parties, unprecedented culinary innovations in the kitchen and an unexpected sense of connection over the shared pandemic experience. Loneliness and solitude, as it turns out, can co-exist.

Day 56

Vancouver’s downtown skyline is seen through a fence filled with love locks at the Lonsdale Quay Market in North Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 57

Taped-off swings at a park in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Cities grow still

March 24, 2020

Playgrounds across the province become a stark symbol of how children’s lives have changed during the pandemic. Swings, slides and monkey bars are wrapped in yellow caution tape like the kind used at crime scenes. Some parents tell their kids the parks are broken just because it’s easier. 

In the city, noise has disappeared. Bustling streets are empty. Fewer planes roar overhead. The hum of sidewalk chatter is gone. Music from restaurants and businesses no longer spills onto thoroughfares. The hush makes cities feel like places where one isn’t supposed to be.

Day 58

Customers wait in line to enter a Real Canadian Superstore in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Supermarket stress

March 25, 2020

For many, trips to the grocery store have become one of the only errands for which they leave the house. Shoppers are kept separated by traffic cones, wooden pallets and plastic bins as they wait to reach the aisles. For some, being close begins to feel unnatural; crowds make the heart race. Some realize they’ve started holding their breath as others pass by.

Day 64

A woman waits for a bus on a near-empty Robson Street in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

1,000th CASE

March 31, 2020

British Columbia confirms its 1,000th case of COVID-19. Provincial officials say there is “zero” chance that physical distancing orders will be lifted before May, wiping out any last hopes of a quick return to pre-pandemic life. 

Businesses, closed indefinitely, begin covering storefronts with plywood to ward off thieves.

A boarded-up Aritzia store on Robson Street in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 65

An empty Canada Line train. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Bills to pay

April 1, 2020

Families across the province dip into savings or borrow cash to pay bills as a new month begins in a frozen economy. Both provincial and federal officials say billions in financial aid should be flowing to the public as soon as possible, but help has not arrived in time for countless renters and landlords.

Day 66

Black Top and Checker cabs at their parking lot in Vancouver, having been pulled off the road due to a lack of customers. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

The psychological toll

April 2, 2020

The psychological consequences of isolation sink in for many families. Public health experts warn a wave of mental illness will be the second pandemic, as daily doses of isolation, uncertainty and fear lead to potential trauma for the entire population.

Day 70

Sunbathers stay physically distanced at Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

A trace of hope

April 6, 2020

The infection curve in British Columbia begins to show signs of flattening by early April due to a combination of luck, timing and calculated health measures. The news offers a glimmer of hope to a province longing to know whether their sacrifices have been a success.

Much of B.C. sees a blast of warm, spectacular spring weather. Provincial parks will soon close to ensure travellers don’t undermine the health-care progress.

Day 72

Rev. Nick Meisl of St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic parish takes confession from parishioners at a drive-thru confession in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Keeping the faith

April 8, 2020

Sundays without church. Ramadan without mosques. Sins without confession, unabsolved. At a time in which many turn to faith as a salve, religious leaders adapt as gatherings become impossible. 

Church moves online. Calls to prayer are broadcast over loudspeakers. Catholic priests hear confessions in the parkade.

Day 73

A health-care worker at St. Paul’s Hospital holds a rose during daily applause and cheers from the public in a show of support for staff. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Honouring health-care heroes

April 9, 2020

The pandemic highlights the struggle and heroism of health-care workers. British Columbians take a moment at 7 p.m. each evening to applaud, cheer, sing, bang pots and proclaim their gratitude to staff on the front lines: doctors, nurses, lab technicians, anesthesiologists, hospital administrators, pharmacists, paramedics, security guards, cleaning staff and all the other people endangering themselves and their families to keep others healthy.

To them, lives are owed.

People enjoy the sunset near English Bay in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)
Hotel rooms are lit up in the shape of a heart at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 79

An empty Fraser Street in Vancouver during what would usually be rush hour. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 81

Deacon Dileep Athaide delivers toiletries and food to seafarers aboard bulk carriers who are required to stay on their vessels at Westshore Terminals in Delta, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Trapped at sea

April 17, 2020

More than 100,000 seafarers in Canadian ports have become trapped on their ships, unable to come to land, as their home countries continue to lock travellers out. Some workers will have already been on their respective ships for nine months, cooped up away from their families with incessant vibration, noise and poor-quality food. Many crews have no choice but to sign contract extensions instead of doing a crew change, meaning another months-long stint confined to their ships.

Day 85

Shoppers are separated by pallets in a lineup outside Costco in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Redefining normal

April 21, 2020

British Columbians are developing as much of a semblance of routine as they can after more than a month under coronavirus restrictions. The number of new cases and hospitalizations solidifies in a downward trend throughout April, easing one factor in the population’s anxiety. Hundreds of thousands of people watch Dr. Henry’s briefings when they air daily at 3 p.m.

Day 88

Christine Taylor, who lives in Washington state, talks to her mother, B.C. resident Marika Markovic, at the Canada-U.S. border. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

A haven on 0 Avenue

April 24, 2020

Loved ones separated by the closure of the Canada-U.S. border find a way to stay close: 0 Avenue. A grassy verge beside the road that runs along the 49th parallel offers a place to chat, joke, exchange notes and see each other in the flesh. Visitors can talk, but are not allowed to reach across and touch.

Day 92

Catherine Houston pushes her mother Margaret MacDonald outside during a surprise party for her 102nd birthday in Vancouver’s West End. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Parties at a distance

April 28, 2020

Margaret Houston, a veteran of the Second World War, celebrates her 102nd birthday under pandemic restrictions. Dozens of beaming neighbours hang from their balconies in Houston’s West End apartment complex, while the Vancouver Police Department’s Mounted Squad show up on horseback.

Many other British Columbians improvise to celebrate milestones and socialize, throwing drive-by birthday parties for kids and organizing convoys for new retirees. Tailgate parties, block parties and driveway beers — all seem to have gained a new life.

Day 93

Volunteers pack lunches for families and students at Edmonds Elementary School in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Keeping school meals on course

April 29, 2020

Thousands of children in British Columbia dependent on school meal programs have been going without after schools were closed, with no replacement measures to keep kids fed. To compensate, volunteers gather carefully in abandoned school auditoriums and empty gyms to help pack lunches for families and students in need.

Day 94

A man walks past an empty alley in downtown Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)
A man walks through the plaza at the Vancouver Art Gallery. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 98

Customers line up outside a bank in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

More flickers of hope

May 4, 2020

As May begins, the number of new cases of COVID-19 continue to drop in B.C. Officials begin hinting at a plan to relax the rules put in place two months earlier. More people begin stepping out of the house. Dr. Henry is able to stop holding news conferences six days a week.

Day 100

An eager hockey player sits in a designated area during the Burnaby Winter Club’s first day of reopening. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

B.C. relaxes restrictions

May 6, 2020

It’s a bright day in B.C.: Provincial officials say the curve has flattened enough, and consistently enough, to allow gatherings of two to six people — as long as no guests have symptoms of COVID-19. They clear the way for hugs with family, small dinner parties and backyard barbecues in time for the Victoria Day long weekend. Schools will soon be allowed to reopen on a part-time, voluntary basis. Elective surgeries will start up again.

For a moment, during a press conference announcing the latest way of life, Dr. Henry beams. B.C. has become one of the best jurisdictions in Canada, and the world, at slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

Hockey players put on their gear in designated areas at the Burnaby Winter Club. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 105

Workers take down plywood boards painted with murals covering up entrances of retail stores on Robson Street in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Businesses prepare to reopen

May 11, 2020

Workers began to carefully take down plywood boards, adorned with murals, as businesses prepare to reopen in mid-May. The transition brings deep anticipation, but apprehension and anxiety are still very real.

Day 107

Students in a classroom in West Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Class apart

May 13, 2020

Parents, administrators and children begin to prepare for schools to reopen on June 1, though some children of essential service workers have been back in the classroom for weeks. For those students, foam pool noodles and hula hoops have been used to remind kids to stay apart. Hand sanitizer is everywhere. For teachers, figuring out how to work under the weight of a pandemic is likened to “building the airplane as [you] fly it.”

Day 109

A medical lab technician tests COVID-19 samples at the B.C Centre for Disease Control lab in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Chasing immunity

May 15, 2020

The testing area at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s central laboratory in Vancouver is one of several sites in Canada racing to evaluate serology tests in an effort to better understand whether people who have been infected with COVID-19 are immune to the virus once they get better. 

Medical lab technologists work quietly against the whir of machinery, handling samples that could inform the province's pandemic response. They’re trying to answer what one clinical microbiologist described as “the million-dollar question.”

Day 113

Customers get manicures through acrylic safety panels at Stanley’s Nail Salon in Burnaby, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Phase 2 begins

May 19, 2020

B.C.’s reopening plan is cleared to begin after more than two months of restricted life. Businesses, restaurants and other personal-service shops carefully welcome customers back under stringent guidelines. Provincial officials say a flare-up of cases is possible as people begin to interact more outside the home. Anxiety, as has become normal, is high.

A customer gets a haircut at a Burnaby barber shop. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 115

A mural in Vancouver promotes physical distancing. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Space and time

May 21, 2020

The space between people came to occupy a new space in our collective consciousness in the first months of the pandemic: It isolated us, depressed us, endangered us, spared us and saved us.

Day 123

A server takes an order at a restaurant in Vancouver. Health officials insist the virus is far less likely to spread outside, which means outdoor dining is preferred. Eateries expand old patios or scramble to create new ones to get business flowing. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Social lives return, evolved

May 29, 2020

Ten days into Phase 2, more people are stepping out gingerly for a drink or a meal for the first time in months. Life starts seeping back into the streets. Friends plan physically distanced visits, jilted couples plan new weddings to fit the current reality and families begin pushing to restore visitation with seniors in care homes.

A cyclist pedals through Gastown. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 126

Students are welcomed back to class with physical distancing protocols in place at Lynn Valley Elementary School in North Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Back to school for many

June 1, 2020

Classrooms reopen for the final three weeks of the calendar school year with a mix of apprehension, frustration and relief. No one knows how or if it is going to work; many aren’t ready to try.

Day 130

Protesters during the Black Lives Matter rally in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Black Lives Matter march

June 5, 2020

Thousands of people gather in downtown Vancouver to demonstrate against police brutality and racial injustice, spurred by the May 2020 death of Minnesota man George Floyd and others at the hands of police in the U.S. and Canada. Despite massive crowds, provincial officials would later confirm no cases of COVID-19 were associated with the protests.

Day 133

A couple heads to their wedding ceremony near the Peace Arch border crossing in Surrey, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Peace Arch blessings

June 8, 2020

Peace Arch Park, an internationally shared space straddling the Canada-U.S. border, has become a loophole for loved ones separated by the pandemic. Canadians and Americans roam freely through the park, and even marry there, as long as they leave again through their respective sides of the border.

Day 142

The White Rock pier on its first day of reopening. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Cautious optimism

June 17, 2020

The number of new cases remains largely static across B.C. in the first weeks of June, as they had done in May, which means the province is inching toward Phase 3 of its reopening plan.

Parts of life begin to feel more normal for many than they have in months. Others are struggling with how they will rebuild their finances. More than 353,000 jobs were lost provincewide since the beginning of the pandemic, with more than 30 per cent of those losses affecting young people.

Groups of customers are separated by barriers at a White Rock, B.C., restaurant. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Day 144

A high-school graduate during a physically distanced ceremony at King George Secondary in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

The graduating classes of COVID-19

June 19, 2020

The pandemic has taken the final weeks of high school away from thousands of graduating students. There is no prom. No last hugs. No grand goodbye. Only a quiet end.

Administrators, families and communities try to commemorate the graduates as best they can. Some schools hold physically distant ceremonies, where a small number of students cross the stage at a time. Others can only graduate virtually.

Day 148

Patricia Grinsteed, 91, touches hands with her daughter through a glass barrier at the Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, B.C. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Care home visits reinstated

June 23, 2020

Seniors in nursing homes across the province are able to see their family again as non-essential visits are partially reinstated. For many of the elderly, it’s the first time they've seen somebody they love in more than three months.

Day 150

Kitsilano Beach in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Open-air benefits

June 25, 2020

The province rolls into Phase 3 of its reopening plan on June 24, which means “careful,” smart travel is now allowed within the province. For those staying in the city, outdoor space in the form of backyards, community parks and local beaches have become havens during the pandemic. Public spaces become infinitely more valuable for those living in urban centres who don’t have their own green space at home.

Health officials warn that complacency with physical distancing, handwashing and other health measures will undo all of B.C.’s progress. They say the virus will prowl across the province for months to come.

Day 162

Dr. Bonnie Henry adjusts her mask while she views murals dedicated to health care workers in Gastown on July 7, 2020. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Gratitude for Dr. Henry

July 7, 2020

Dr. Bonnie Henry has become a household name, acclaimed nationwide and abroad for her humility and compassion as she led B.C. to flatten its curve and launch its initial reopening.

The “Murals of Gratitude” exhibition Henry visits stands just several kilometres from the building in which she confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in B.C. in January, six months and, for many, what seems like a lifetime ago.

The mask she wears at the visit is a play on her trademark phrase: “This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”

Day 165

Groups are kept apart by physical distancing measures during a screening of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back at the Rio Theatre in Vancouver. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Life under Phase 3

July 10, 2020

Friday nights are different under Phase 3. Seeing a movie at a theatre, singing karaoke with friends, watching live music and mingling at the bar are all back on the table, along with — as we are all intimately aware — a number of restrictions.

It’s the closest to normal British Columbians have been for some time. The province will not enter the final phase of its reopening plan until there is a vaccine, community immunity or an effective treatment to tackle COVID-19.

The goal, in the meantime, is to avoid slipping backwards.

Day 183

New Brighton pool in Vancouver on July 13, the day it reopened to the public. (Photo: Ben Nelms/CBC)

Flare-up comes as a warning

July 28, 2020

After weeks of steadiness, the number of active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. triples in the first two weeks of July. The sudden spike is linked mostly to a group of asymptomatic people who spread the coronavirus at a number of parties around tourist-laden Kelowna on and around Canada Day. The new cases skew younger, cropping up in people who are primarily in their 20s and 30s.

Provincial officials begin pleading with young people across the province to stay in line with the rules. B.C. can't afford a carefree summer.

“This is our time to be kind, to be calm, and to be safe.”
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry

Six Months In


Photography by Ben Nelms

Written by Rhianna Schmunk
Edited by Jan Zeschky

Designed by Andrew McManus

Senior Producer
Andrew McManus

Ben Nelms

Rhianna Schmunk
Jan Zeschky

Special Thanks
Franny Karlinsky