Debate on mandatory masks heats up in B.C., Henry says no to mandate

Debate on mandatory masks heats up in B.C., Henry says no to mandate
WatchAs the number of cases grows across bc, so does the debate on whether or not masks should become mandatory in the province. It's a polarizing topic, with many saying it's necessary, but health officials have made it clear: it's not going to happen. Rebecca Lawrence takes a look.

As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in B.C., the debate on whether or not masks should be mandatory is getting hotter.

Right now in the province, masks are highly recommended in indoor spaces but they are not required.

And as the second wave hits the province hard, many businesses, including Costco, have taken it upon themselves to put the mandatory face-covering rule in for their patrons.

B.C.’s top doctor recently stressed the importance of wearing a mask, particularly as case numbers climb, but made it clear she would not be mandating them to be worn in public places.

“Right now, wearing a mask, when we’re in public places, when we’re around people we don’t know, that’s incredibly important that extra layer of protection,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a press conference on Thursday.

READ MORE: Costco requiring customers to wear masks or face shields at all stores

Henry’s decision not to require masks in public is one that not everyone agrees with.

Currently, a petition asking for mandatory masks indoors has more than 19 thousand signatures as of Nov. 15.

“There’s a pretty good consensus that masks have an effect in reducing the spread of the virus,” said UBC mathematics professor Dan Coombs, an expert in pandemic growth.

Coombs says although he highly recommends wearing them in any public indoor space, they’re not the solution to the pandemic, and worries they give residents a false sense of security.

“Masks are absolutely not a replacement for social distancing, keeping away from people especially in indoor settings,” said the professor, who says to make sure you keep your distance from others even when wearing a mask.

Should the province mandate people wear masks while indoors, Coombs questions how much more effective it would be.

“We already have pretty high mask usage . . . it is difficult to imagine we would see a big impact at the moment,” Coombs said. “It might not be distinguishable from other changes and seasonal changes.”

It’s a polarizing topic. While many support the idea of a mask mandate, many also worry about those who can’t wear masks for medical reasons and fear they might become a target for harassment if seen not wearing them.

Public health officials are hoping that people will choose to wear them if they can, without a mandate.

“We’ve never mandated that you need to keep a physical distance, but people still understand that,” said Dr. Henry.

For now, our provincial health officer is standing firm and keeping masks strongly recommended but not mandatory.

READ MORE: Elementary school in Surrey ordered to close due to COVID-19 outbreak

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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