British Columbia

7 p.m. salute to health-care workers spreads to New Westminster

Fiona Burrows and her air horn want others to join in the nightly show of appreciation for workers at Royal Columbian Hospital.

Fiona Burrows and her air horn want others to join in the nightly show of appreciation for RCH workers

A woman applauds and a man bangs a knife on a cup in support of health-care workers as they lean out the upper floor window of an apartment at 7 p.m. in Vancouver's West End, on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

It began Monday night in the smallest of ways — just two friends a block apart each sounding an air horn at 7 p.m. to salute to health-care workers at nearby Royal Columbian Hospital confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of course, instigator Fiona Burrows is hoping for bigger things: that her merry duet of noise-makers grows in size and beyond her Sapperton neighbourhood. 

But even if it doesn't, she has no plans to stop honking anytime soon.

"I'm doing this until the pandemic is over," said Burrows. "I have so much admiration for our health-care workers... and we need to rally together to show our appreciation."

Burrows will be pleased to know her message is being received. 

Mel Jackson, a St. Paul's Hospital psychiatry unit coordinator, was delighted to hear the ovation in her home in New Westminster yesterday. 

"I got emotional," she said. "To know it's spreading ... that the vast majority of people are behind us, it's important.

"We signed up for health care, not a pandemic, so it's nice that society is recognizing us."

The nightly cacophony for health-care workers began in Italy over two weeks ago as coronavirus spread and people forced to self-isolate found a way to express gratitude to those sacrificing their own safety in the face of the unknown pathogen.

Residents of Vancouver's West End joined the movement on the weekend, clapping, cheering and banging pots from balconies at 7 p.m., a time picked to coincide with the shift change at nearby St. Paul's. 

The number of people and volume has been increasing ever since, and the movement is now spreading to back decks and windows across Metro Vancouver.

Burrows is using her social media channels to amplify the New Westminster effort. 

Besides showing love to front line health-care workers, she says it's a great way to stay connected while being stuck in your home.

"I'm a person who loves to give high-fives and hugs," she said. "This is the next best thing."

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