Doctors across British Columbia are calling on the government to make masks mandatory as COVID-19 cases in the province continue to rise.
Over 80 doctors in British Columbia have issued a public notice to Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan in an effort to mandate mask-wearing.
The doctors have signed an open letter, calling on the government to make it mandatory to wear masks in various public locations including all indoor public spaces outside of the home, when in crowds, and while riding public transport.
“Our opinion is based on recent studies showing that the use of masks provides source control and may provide recipient protection,” reads the open letter.
The recommendation being presented by B.C. doctors suggests that there is currently no evidence of harm from the use of masks. They also highlight that, in their expert opinion, if 60-80 per cent public usage of masks can be achieved, the basic reproductive number of COVID-19 will be significantly reduced.
“The reopening of B.C.’s economy will inevitably cause an increased risk of community spread,” continues the letter. “With this in mind, a recent poll shows that 75 per cent of B.C. residents support a mandatory mask policy in public places.”
Other provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, have made the decision to move to mandatory masks in public spaces as a result of COVID-19.
On Tuesday, August 4, Alberta announced it would be making masks mandatory for students between Grade 4-12 and teachers once classes resume this fall.
No such rules have been mandated by officials in British Columbia at this time, but there is a seemingly growing anxiety among parents about sending their children to school with the current education plan – one that doesn’t include mandatory masks.
“We believe it should be at the discretion of provincial jurisdictions as to whether mandatory masking is implemented, but in locations of high population density and/or where community spread is ongoing, it should be mandated,” a statement in the doctors’ letter explains.
“There may also be a role in regions where there is no community spread in order to prevent new introduction of the virus.”
As part of the open letter from doctors, it outlines a series of recommendations including:
- Exempting persons with medical contraindications and/or disabilities, and young children
- Distribution of masks to populations that may be vulnerable and/or at higher risk in order to reduce inequity
- No legal penalties to enforce the policy, rather a focus put on educating the public instead
“British Columbians have sacrificed so much to flatten the curve, and we have been successful. We are now at an important juncture in our efforts to again take control of the spread of COVID-19,” the doctors said.
“Mask wearing in addition to current physical distancing measures and hand hygiene can assist in the safe reopening of public life and can prevent additional outbreaks,”
The open letter is pushing for immediate change.
On Tuesday, Dr. Henry suggested that a discussion is currently ongoing about making masks mandatory on public transit in parts of British Columbia.