Dr Bonnie Henry, a Canadian physician and the Provincial Health Officer for British Columbia, has been the face of British Columbia’s successful fight against Covid-19. So much so that when large crowds of people gathered at a beach this past weekend, an artist put up an installation of her face, with a stern expression, to ward off people from breaking social distance rules. The Canadian province has seen a rise in cases over the past few days, which led to some fear among people, but even that spike has been measly (102), compared with many other countries.
In April, while the rest of the world was still trying to wrap its head around the novel coronavirus, British Columbia was already flattening its curve. And much of the credit has been given to Henry. In a profile published in June, The New York Times called her one of the most effective public health officials in the world. While Henry has been credited with policies that allowed for early testing and strong messages on social distancing, she has said, unassumingly, that “part of it is, frankly, luck.”
Search for her name on social media and you will find fan accounts, something rare for government officials in any country. She was the face of the daily updates in British Columbia and perhaps a ray of hope during the dark times. A look through her Twitter fan page shows that her repeated calls for being calm and kind have even been made into bumper stickers. In British Columbia, she is not just a public health official but a bit of a cultural phenomenon.
As her book Soap and Water & Common Sense: The Definitive Guide to Viruses, Bacteria, Parasites, and Disease is relaunched in light of the pandemic, 11 years after it was first published, Henry told HuffPost India over email that it was her work for over 30 years that helped her prepare for this pandemic.
One of the biggest surprises to her, she said, was how leaders across the world downplayed the spread of the virus. Even as the lockdowns across...