British Columbia

BCCDC apologizes for creating confusion by repeatedly changing isolation advice

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has apologized after repeatedly changing its isolation guidelines online over several days.

Centre, ministry say BCCDC website is not up to date and in line with PHO's recommendations

COVID-19 samples are seen at the B.C Centre for Disease Control lab in Vancouver on May 15, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control has apologized after quietly changing its isolation guidelines online several times this week, at one point switching up its advice for unvaccinated adults twice in a day.

The centre issued a statement Thursday admitting its flip-flopping changes "led to confusion" at a time when patients and families are already feeling battered and burnt out.

"We apologize for the web posting and changes that occurred yesterday. We understand the significant interest in these testing and isolation guidelines, which is why we updated the website immediately with clarifications made yesterday," the statement read.

"We also recognize people in British Columbia are frustrated with the ongoing pandemic, and they want and need clear communication on changes that impact their lives. We will strive to ensure there is a better change management process for future changes."

On Tuesday, the centre updated its guidelines online to say people who test positive for COVID-19 could isolate for only five days, whether they're vaccinated or not. But less than a day later, the post changed again: the advice for unvaccinated adults was to isolate for 10 days after testing positive.

Guidance also changed for children and teens under 17, dropping the isolation period down to five days no matter their vaccination status.

There was no news conference or public briefing Wednesday to alert the public to the changes or explain the rationale.

On Thursday, Health Minister Adrian Dix agreed the centre had made an error.

"That was frustrating, that was their mistake, they've apologized for it and we move on and do better," Dix told reporters.

"What's challenging is ... We're two years into a pandemic and we're all dealing with the consequence of that, the long-term strain of that," he continued.

"There were a couple of mistakes in terms of posting ... things this week that led to some confusion and the sheer volume of work we're doing communicating means that's going to happen from time to time."

Dix said there was no news conference Wednesday because Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry had already spoken about changes during news conferences on Friday and Monday.

The minister said it's customary to update the online advice after Henry announces the changes, but experts and doctors say that change needs to come quickly — not several days later.

"When people in authority say something, that this is the new guidance based on science, we need to do the best we can to make sure that the written documents that relate to those statements are updated as quickly as possible," said Dr. Brian Conway, the medical director of the Vancouver Infectious Diseases Centre.

Dix said the BCCDC's online guidance on self-isolation was properly up to date by Thursday and in line with the province's recommendations.

There were 895 people in hospital with COVID-19 as of Wednesday, according to the province. A statement said 115 of those people were in intensive care, marking a jump of 49.4 per cent from last month.


Experts say hospitalizations are a more accurate barometer of the disease's impact, as new case numbers in B.C. are likely much higher than reported, now that the province has hit its testing limit because of the Omicron surge.

With files from Belle Puri