VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Premier John Horgan appears to have no regrets about his choice of words, blaming young people for B.C.’s latest surge in COVID-19 cases.
“I got their attention. That’s exactly what I wanted to do,” he said.
On Monday, Horgan said people aged 20 to 39 “are not paying as much attention … and quite frankly, are putting the rest of us in a challenging situation.”
“My appeal to you is do not blow this for the rest of us. Do not blow this for your parents and your neighbors and others who have been working really really hard making significant sacrifices, so we can get good outcomes for everybody,” he said Monday.
Related article: B.C. pauses indoor dining, religious gatherings, closes Whistler as COVID-19 cases rise
There was a lot of backlash to Horgan’s comments, with many people pointing out workers in that demographic are the ones putting their health on the line to work in grocery stores, restaurants, and health care.
Speaking Tuesday, the premier stood by his words and did not offer an apology.
“The large increase in the number of cases in British Columbia are in the age of 20 to 39. I don’t make any apologies for reaching out to people and saying, ‘We are all in this together,'” he said.
“You are in a dangerous place, 20 to 39-year-olds. I believe that my objective yesterday was to catch the public’s attention, particularly those that are vulnerable and are expanding their social gatherings rather than contracting them. So, what I have to say to them is thanks for listening. Abide by the orders and make sure that your mom and your grandma are going to be safe,” he added.
Horgan later took to Twitter, backing down slightly.
From day 1, we’ve followed the science & worked to fight transmission where data shows it happening.
Dr. Henry has expressed concern about increased cases in people aged 20-39 and has said contact tracing shows indoor social gatherings are a major driver of recent transmission.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) March 30, 2021
“To the vast majority of young people doing everything they can: thank you,” he posted.
Later in his thread, he pointed to provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry’s “expressed concern about increased cases” in people in that demographic, saying indoor social gatherings are a “major driver” of transmission.
UBC New Democrats President Justin Kulik says people in that age range have been hit hard during the pandemic.
“Education, job loss, our mental health — we’re seeing that it’s young people putting themselves at risk every day to keep our province working. But we’re still getting the blame at the end of the day and being told not to ‘blow it for the rest of us,” he said.
"I think it's important the Premier apologize for this comment (blaming 20-39s for virus spike), not just because it's not backed up by data, but because young people have given so, so much," — listen @NEWS1130 as UBC NDP Pres @JustinKulik calls @jjhorgan comments "out of line." pic.twitter.com/kDDML8Kjh7
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) March 30, 2021
Kulik, who ran for the BC NDP in the last provincial election, called for the premier to apologize.
Though he did not offer an apology, Horgan’s tweets on Thursday acknowledged “tremendous sacrifices” young people have made in the pandemic.
No question, most young people have made tremendous sacrifices to fight COVID-19. They’re also more often working front-line jobs or living with roommates.
Reports of more young people getting sicker due to new variants have kept us up at night.https://t.co/TD0uSFqHfh
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) March 30, 2021
Many have taken to social media to blast the premier for his comments, including BC Green candidate Adam Bremner-Akins who put out his own criticism on Twitter.
1/10 @jjhorgan today you blamed young people for the rise in cases, and said we were blowing it for the “rest of us”, to that I say how dare you. Young people are on the front lines, providing services for you, and the rest of the province, and have sacrificed so much already.
— Adam Bremner-Akins (@ABremnerAkins) March 29, 2021
BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau also took time to call Horgan out for blaming young people, saying “maybe government could look at the data and systemic conditions that are leading to higher case counts in this demographic and step up to help them. Just like we did for seniors.”
Horgan’s comments on Monday came as the province announced a return to bans on indoor dining at eateries, indoor religious gatherings, and indoor group fitness classes, as well as the closure of Whistler Blackcomb.
B.C. reported 2,518 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, with 936 new infections between Friday and Saturday, 805 between Saturday and Sunday, and 774 between Sunday and Monday.
With files from OMNI News and Hana Mae Nassar