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Year In Review: Langley saw pandemic protests, new shots, and the triple-demic

Fewer deaths, but a lot of school absences this fall as flu season hit
Hundreds took part in a Langley-based protest against vaccine mandates and media coverage of the pandemic on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022. (Dan Ferguson/Black Press news services)

One of the biggest changes this year was the gradual easing of the last few COVID-19 restrictions – just in time for Langley, and the rest of Canada, to get walloped with a nasty flu season.

While many events were back on and public Christmas festivities had largely resumed by the end of 2021, the coronavirus wasn’t done with Langley yet.

The omicron variant of COVID-19 hit Canada in the winter, with many people calling in sick and fresh strain on health workers and hospitals at the start of the year. The highly-infectious variant spread rapidly, leading to more infections than any other wave.

In early January, the LEC-based Vancouver Giants had to postpone three games because either they or their opponents were being tested for COVID.

However, a majority of British Columbians had at least two doses of vaccine, and many had three.

That had led to a reduction in deaths and the number of people in intensive care with COVID in B.C. hospitals. In turn, that led to continued easing of restrictions.

But it didn’t mean that those opposed to the vaccine mandates and masking rules were happy about the situation.

Langley became a rally point for groups supporting the truckers convoy and occupation of downtown Ottawa in January and February.

Hundreds of people gathered at the parking lot of the Cineplex movie theatre in Walnut Grove on Jan. 29 for the start of a convoy to Vancouver.

But when they attempted to use the same parking lot the following Saturday, on Feb. 5, they found blocked entrances and security guards.

“We’ve got to figure something out,” a frustrated organizer was overheard saying. “We’re going to have 300 trucks here in 10 minutes.”

The rallies were largely in support of truckers who could no longer cross the border into the U.S. because they refused to be vaccinated, which the U.S. then required.

Police eventually cleared out the major protest in Ottawa, as well as at border crossings in several spots across Canada.

One group that had found a silver lining in the COVID-19 restrictions was people who were vulnerable to homelessness. For a year and a half, many local motels accepted them as residents, with funding from the provincial government, because there were few travellers.

In 2022, however, many across Langley got eviction notices from places they had called home for more than a year.

“There’s quite a few other people here in the hotel that are in the same boat,” Violet, 62, told the Langley Advance Times in March, as she faced the uncertainty of where she would live at the end of the month.

By the early fall, it was time for another round of booster shots – this time, provincial health authorities were encouraging everyone to get the new bivalent booster, which offered protection against the omicron variant as well as the original COVID-19 virus, as well as a flu shot.

Despite that, respiratory illnesses wreaked havoc with the health care system as the days got colder.

The so-called triple-demic of viruses – COVID-19, influenza, and RSV – hit across the country.

School absences by both students and staff were up this fall compared to last year, according to data from the Langley School District.

One school saw 37.6 per cent of all students absent at some point in the first three weeks of November.

The triple-demic caused a flood of new patients heading into already-stretched-thin hospitals. Health officials announced that Vancouver Children’s Hospital might consider double-bunking patients in early December.

Despite pleas from health officials to get the bivalent booster shot and extensive news coverage of the strain on the hospital system, by Dec. 22, just 34 per cent of Langley residents 18 and older had received their fourth shot. In comparison, 61 per cent had received a third shot.

Seniors, among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, were taking the situation more seriously. Among those 70 and older, 87 per cent had received a third dose of the vaccine, and 73 per cent had received a fourth dose.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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