As COVID-19 cases continue to climb in B.C. due to the highly infectious delta variant, the province is bringing back mandatory masks.
“We are reintroducing a mask requirement across British Columbia for all indoor public spaces,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer.
Anyone 12 years and older will have to wear a mask in any retail store, on public transit, in community centers including fitness centers unless working out, in restaurants, pubs, bars unless seated, in offices which serve the public, in common areas of post-secondary schools, for students in grades 4-12, and staff K-12.
The masks are a temporary intervention for now, as the province waits for the vaccine mandate to kick in next month.
But doctors are warning B.C.’s critical care is already reaching capacity.
“The concern I have is that I don’t think people recognize the degree at which we are in big trouble here from a health care standpoint. Interior [Health] is totally overwhelmed. Nanaimo General is the only hospital at the moment that is able to take cases,” said Dr. David Forrest, an infectious disease specialist on Nanaimo General Hospital’s critical care team.
“And this is only August. We’re yet to get into the fall months where there are more people indoors, where kids are back in school. There will be more transmission, there will be more disease. So I am very worried we are on the cusp of seeing much higher cases in hospital.”
Dr. Forrest’s comments come as new data shows hospitalizations, which typically lag behind spikes and dips in new cases, are up 100 per cent from two weeks ago. The number of patients in intensive care is up by over 50 per cent.
“There are about 13 patients across Vancouver island who are in the ICU right now, critically ill with COVID-19. Not one of those people has been vaccinated,” said Dr. Forrest.
Making it not only critical to get vaccinated but because of the possibility of breakthrough cases, but to also wear a mask.
“There are those amongst vaccinated people who are still at risk of developing the disease, because the vaccine doesn’t work as well in the elderly, in people who are immune-compromised, certainly in children,” said Dr. Forrest.
“So, without doubt, we will see breakthrough cases with vaccinated people who will become ill.”
For now, a mandatory thin piece of fabric will be our ticket to freedom, keeping social areas safe, and open.