There were undoubtedly many factors that came into play as health officials scrambled to convince a whole province to turn their lives upside down this year. Judging by the constant stream of information, it looks like repetition was one of them.
Weekly – and daily during the height of pandemic – updates from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix became part of the afternoon routine for readers and journalists alike. Amid the daily case counts – oftentimes invoking concern and more questions than answers – came words of encouragement and direction in how British Columbians could navigate their day-to-day.
In particular, a few dozen catchphrases surfaced – one that has become so well-known its been sewn onto pillowcases, highlighted on holiday cards and incorporated into how we are told to respond to all the negativity and divisiveness the pandemic has brought with it.
To pay homage to the biggest newsmaker of 2020 – a virus we won’t soon forget – Black Press Media has looked back in time to countdown some of the most popular catchphrases that came about:
8. Find virtue in virtual – April 8
Said by Dix in April, ahead of the Easter Long weekend, virtual celebrations became a staple in how British Columbians connect with their loved ones.
“This will be a long weekend like we have never experienced,” Dix said at a news conference at the time. “Its religious and family significance is as strong as ever, but we must find other ways to make it memorable, restorative and affirming.
“Find the virtue in virtual and telephone connections, find togetherness without gathering, find comfort in your own home with family.”
7. Stay local, stay apart, stay safe – May 11
Another phrase shared ahead of a long weekend – this time in May, Dix and Henry urged people to stay close to home and avoid unnecessary travel as the weather started to warm.
At the time, B.C. was looking towards a reopening plan that would see businesses and services restart from the March to May shutdown.
“Stay apart, stay local, stay safe,” Dix said. “We can’t let up.”
6. Break the Chain Day (BC Day) – July 30
Avoiding a surge in COVID-19 cases through the summer was crucial for health officials. After rules were broken on Canada Day – leading to big spikes in infections seen across the province originating in Kelowna – Dix and Henry urged those partaking in August long weekend events to stay small in their gatherings.
“Let’s make this long weekend a different one than what we saw in early July,” Henry said at the time.
Dix meanwhile underscored the critical nature of safe gatherings by taking the “B.C.” in B.C. Day and giving alternate and timely meanings: Break the Chain Day, Battle COVID Day, Bend the Curve Day.
5. Don’t go, don’t throw, say no – Nov 5
Hosting parties got all the more difficult – and dangerous – in 2020, due to the virus spreading easiest indoors.
In November, many of the new infections were being traced through contact tracers back to house parties, sparking warnings and threats of fines by health officials.
In a Nov. 5 briefing, Dix said British Columbians should have a simple approach to house parties: “Don’t go, don’t throw, say no.”
4. When in doubt, rule it out – Dec 10
Most recently, ahead of Christmas, health officials placed a ban on social gatherings of all sizes and kinds – forcing many to adapt their plans over the holidays. But the rules, criticized for being vague, left many unclear as to how their personal situation will be implicated by the restrictions.
For those people, Henry and Dix suggested to be safer than sorry.
“When in doubt, rule it out,” Dix said in a Dec. 10 news conference. “When there is additional risk, rule it out.”
3. Stick to Six – Sept. 10
Six became an important number in B.C.’s pandemic response, specifically when it came to how many people one should have in their social bubble.
“Stick to six if you’re going out to a restaurant or a bar, to make sure your group is no larger than six,” Dix said during a Sept. 10 news conference.
“Stick to six if you’re hosting a small gathering in your home and if your home is smaller, if it’s an apartment like mine, less than six. “Stick to six when you’re going out with others or having them over. Remember to choose from the same six people, not different groups. Stick to six with others outside your host household.”
2. Bend the curve, not the rules – April 7
At the height of COVID-19’s first wave crashing in B.C., Dix and Henry coupled encouragement to those following the rules with stern words for those hindering the province from “bending the curve” of COVID cases.
The term bending the curve, which points to the upwards curve in cases as seen on charts and graphs, also became a popular phrase in the early-to-mid months of 2020.
“Let’s enjoy as much as we can with what we have here and the many blessings we have here, but let’s enjoy them without travel.
“This is the 12th week Dr. Henry and I have been doing COVID-19 briefings,” Dix told British Columbians on April 7. “To be 100 per cent all in requires a lot of all of you, but we need it now more than ever. When there is some evidence that we are flattening the curve, we need to double down now…
“So let’s bend the curve not bend the rules. Let’s continue to be 100 per cent all in, committed to our collective effort to stop the transmission of COVID-19.”
1. Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe – March 17
A phrase many cannot read in their head without hearing Henry’s calming voice, “Be kind, be calm be safe” has become a weaving thread in the fabric of B.C.’s COVID-19 response.
A simple message, repeated in almost every news conference since March 17 when Henry first used it publicly, has served as a reminder for how British Columbians can calmly navigate the social isolation of the pandemic, how we should show kindness to strangers when following health policies in public and even how we must follow the rules to keep our seniors and each other safe.
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