On July 1, B.C. will move to the third step of its restart plan amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The criteria for moving to this step is at least 70 per cent of the adult population vaccinated with their first dose, along with low case counts and declining COVID-19 hospitalizations. As of today, Health Minister Adrian Dix said 78.3 per cent of adult British Columbians had received one dose and 31.6 per cent had received two doses.
Today there were 29 new cases and as of yesterday, 107 people were hospitalized with active cases. At the peak of the third wave, new cases reached 1,293 on April 8 and hospitalizations peaked at 515 on April 28. The seven-day average of new cases currently sits at 58, down from a high of 1,130 recorded in early April.
Perhaps the biggest change is that masks are no longer mandatory, after the province imposed the mandate on Nov. 19. However, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said yesterday that removing masks is “in many ways an incentive for people who have been immunized, have received two doses of vaccine.”
It is recommended that those who are not fully vaccinated—14 days past their second dose of vaccine—continue to wear masks in indoor public settings.
“It is important for us to continue to wear masks in those indoor settings when we’re around people that we don’t know and where we not yet have been fully protected,” said Henry.
But she added that risk in the community is changing “dramatically,” especially for those who are vaccinated.
“We are at the point where I believe it’s important that we take away orders as soon as we can and that we take what we call the least restrictive means,” said Henry. “And so we’ll be moving to guidance again around where it is important for people to continue to wear masks and where—if you’re immunized—you may not need to rely on that last layer of protection anymore.”
The province’s Step 3 guidelines also allow for more normal indoor and outdoor personal gatherings. Organized gatherings have some capacity restrictions—50 people or 50 per cent of a venue’s capacity, whichever is higher. Outdoor gatherings can have up to 5,000 people or up to 50 per cent capacity, whichever is greater. Walk-through events like fairs, festivals and trade shows can return to normal with communicable disease plans in place. Worship services will have no restrictions.
People can travel recreationally throughout Canada, although Henry said “preferably vaccinated people” would be welcomed here in B.C.
There is no group limit for indoor and outdoor dining, and liquor service restrictions are lifted. Casinos and nightclubs can open with limited capacities and some other restrictions in place. Indoor fitness classes can have their usual capacity, and limited indoor spectators are allowed for sports.
At workplaces, COVID-19 safety plans will be replaced by communicable disease plans, with a focus on hand-washing, personal hygiene, ventilation and staying home when sick. Some higher-risk workplaces may require additional safety precautions, and barriers may still be in place at some locations such as retail and grocery stores.
The next step of reopening, scheduled for no earlier than Sept. 7, will allow for “normal social contact.” Workplaces will be fully reopened, and sport competitions will return to normal with increased spectators.
“Getting vaccinated is the most important tool supporting our restart,” according to the B.C. government website.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel