Amid a sea of technical jargon, professionally-written-but-poorly-conveyed communications and often-contradictory messaging from various health agencies in B.C., one public health officer stands out for her clear explanations, witty tweets and sass.
Dr. Carol Fenton, a public health officer with the Interior Health Authority, turned to social media for human interaction and to vent frustration, but has become a clear source of information, often in irreverent and humorous fashion.
"We are fighting all our natural instincts, especially to celebrate life events. We see (a few) people got together to have dinner for somebody's birthday, and I'm just like, ‘Guys, that's a party. No parties,’” said Fenton while discussing one of the most commonly misunderstood orders currently in effect: dining out with people outside your household.
"You should not be socializing with anyone outside of your household unless you're a single person,” she said. “And if you're a single person, you need to pick one or two safe people and make sure they're also choosing you, and the reason for that is what we need to do is reduce our interactions."
When CTV News pointed out many people are frustrated at the sometimes conflicting messaging, orders and instructions from the BCCDC versus the Ministry of Health and individual health authorities, the Kamloops-based doctor was diplomatic.
"I can appreciate the confusion and I can appreciate that the provincial leaders have to be very nuanced in their messaging in terms of their expectations and the enforcement systems we do have to work with,” she said. “So it's tricky all around and if I can help by bringing some humour and simplifying the message a little bit, I hope that helps."
In her profile picture, Fenton sports a shirt that reads “Shots, shots, shots, shots, everybody #vaccinessavelives,” spoofing a song about alcoholic shots by LMFAO and Lil Jon, which has also featured prominently at Canucks games for years, since Kevin Bieksa made a reference to taking shots on the net.
Fenton spoke to CTV News via Zoom on the day before public health orders banning social gatherings were set to expire.
While daily infections are in the 400s now, rather than hovering around the 700 mark as they were when the ban on social gatherings was implemented in mid-November, B.C.’s top doctor is expected to extend restrictions on Friday morning.
"We need to really focus on reducing the transmission risk in our community as low as possible, because that's what drives outbreaks in long-term care, that's what drives exposure events in schools, and that’s what drives the risk in our social gatherings," said Dr. Bonnie Henry on Monday. "If we can do that, we can start having increased … social connection again."
While Fenton acknowledges the social isolation is taking its toll on her as well, she says it’s important to remember why the rules are there – especially when it comes to day-to-day interactions with people we know well and work alongside.
“It's easy to let your guard down if you're like, 'Oh, I work with this person and we're in contact anyways,’ but when you're on the job, work stations are spaced out, we have appropriate protective equipment, so in that setting that person would not be considered a contact,” she said. “But if you go eat lunch together, if you go have coffee together, you're going to contaminate each other … Go get your coffee and then phone them … The most important part is no parties."