Masks recommended but still not mandatory in B.C. as province sees spike in COVID-19 cases

Masks recommended but still not mandatory in B.C. as province sees spike in COVID-19 cases
WatchAs masks become mandatory in other parts of the country, many people are wondering if it will be required in B.C. as well. Many people support the mandate, while some say absolutely not. Jasmine Bala has that story.

Although it’s not mandatory to wear masks in B.C., it’s recommended when physical distancing isn’t possible.

BC Transit handed out masks in Greater Victoria on Monday to encourage the use of face coverings on buses, where being two metres apart isn’t always possible.

In a press conference last week, the provincial health officer said everybody on transit should be wearing a mask.

“If you are taking transit right now, you should be wearing a face-covering unless there’s a very valid reason why you can’t,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry last Thursday.

One reason, she explained, is if someone has a physical disability that hinders their ability to put a mask on or take it off.

“There are very few medical reasons why people can’t wear masks,” Henry added. “Masks are safe to wear. They do not cause you to become hypoxic, they do not increase your risk of keeping viruses or bacteria or other things in, they do not exacerbate asthma or other lung conditions.”

While people have the choice to wear a mask in B.C., it’s mandatory in other parts of the country. In Toronto and Quebec, for example, people are required to wear a face-covering in indoor public spaces.

Some British Columbians are worried the province may follow their lead. About 50 people gathered in Vancouver on Sunday, protesting against mandatory mask bylaws.

“I’m really adamant and passionate about freedom of choice,” said Sarah Cuff, who was attending the protest. “I really respect everybody who chooses to wear a mask. I do not feel that a mask is necessary.”

This group, however, is part of the minority.

Seventy-five per cent of British Columbians support a mandatory mask policy in public spaces, according to a recent Angus Reid Institute survey. Forty-five per cent wear a mask outside of their house always or most of the time.

Although most people are supportive of masks, psychologists say the reaction from those that aren’t isn’t uncommon.

“When people are being asked to wear a mask, I think they’re feeling controlled, and we know that people often resist when they feel like they’re being controlled or their rights are being taken away,” said Saunia Ahmad, a clinical psychologist in Toronto. “It is becoming political and is becoming an us versus them issue as opposed to a health prevention or disease prevention issue.”

On Monday, B.C. health officials reported an increase of 102 new cases since July 17, including six new cases in Island Health. 

Jasmine BalaJasmine Bala

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