FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

B.C. will now require masks in public indoor and retail spaces, following months of calls for such a mandate.

The announcement was one of a series of new measures announced by provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday (Nov. 19) following record-breaking cases and deaths B.C. in recent days.

Many retailers and businesses have voiced their frustration with earlier iterations that amounted to recommendations and expectation for the public, but left it up to individual businesses to sort out details and enforcement. Henry said the new mandate will give businesses government support in enforcing mask rules.

Masks will be required for both customers and employees in indoor retail and public spaces in all parts of the province, except for when eating or drinking in a designated food service area. They will also be mandatory in workplaces and hotels for public areas like corridors and elevators, but not in schools.

As to why schools are exempt from Thursday’s rules on mask wearing, Henry said they “are not public open spaces.” Masks are mandatory in high traffic areas within middle and high schools.

“We don’t expect children to wear masks sitting at their desks all day long,” she said. Older students in Ontario and some Quebec schools are required to wear masks while in their classrooms.

In a social media post, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation stated its displeasure with the lack of a full mask mandate for schools.

“The Provincial Health Office has chosen not to mandate masks in #bced (sic) schools even as they make them mandatory in other public spaces. We continue to say to teachers, wear masks. Work with your colleagues to create a culture of mask wearing. Model it in your classes,” the union said.

“Many #bced (sic) schools have full mask policies because the staff, health and safety committee, or administrator made it happen.”

Retail and other employees standing behind plexiglass can take off their masks as long as there is only staff member there. People must wear masks in restaurants unless they are seated at their table. Those unable to wear a mask for a medical or disability related reason are exempt, and Henry cautioned that not all people’s conditions will be visible.

According to health officials, contact tracers have not been seeing transmission between people in public spaces such as grocery stores, which officials suggest is due to so many wearing masks voluntarily.

“It’s become apparent that this surge is happening across the province,” Henry said.

“We all need to focus our efforts on stopping the spread and bending the curve back down.”

Provinces like Ontario and Saskatchewan have already brought in similar mask mandates.

READ MORE: B.C. extends private gathering ban province-wide

READ MORE: 538 new infections, 1 death recorded as B.C. struggles with 50+ COVID outbreaks


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Williams Lake considering using remainder of COVID Safe Restart Grant to make up for unpaid taxes. (City of Williams Lake photo)
Williams Lake weighs allocating rest of COVID safe restart grant in capital programs

The $546,205 lef of the $2.6 million could make up for $746,874 in outstanding taxes

Chief Joe Alphonse
OP-ED: Williams Lake municipal, regional councils lack awareness on historical trauma

Systemic racism isn’t always obvious to those that are not experiencing it

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

The City of Williams Lake is asking for public feedback on whether it should explore the opportunity to host a Greater Metro Hockey League team in Williams Lake. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Williams Lake GMHL expansion questions, concerns, to be discussed later this month

If approved, the team would begin play in the fall of 2021

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Most Read