Children aged five to 11 must now wear masks in indoor public spaces throughout B.C., provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced today.
“Recognizing that young people are now wearing masks from K to 12 in our school system, I’m adjusting our public mask mandate and requiring it for everyone five years of age and older to wear a mask in all indoor public spaces.”
Previously, the mask mandate only included those aged 12-plus.
Another layer of protection is also coming for younger children, with B.C.’s online vaccine booking system now open to those aged five to 11. Henry said vaccines for those children—numbering around 340,000 in B.C.—may be available in early November.
However, she doesn’t think the vaccine card system will be extended to that age group. She clarified that the system was not meant to be permanent, but was intended to get the province to the point where people could safely gather amid high rates of vaccination, as well as enabling businesses to remain open and the arts and culture sector to safely gather.
Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix both spoke on the critical situation in the North, with Dix saying so far 55 critical care patients have been transferred from Northern Health to hospitals in the Vancouver Coastal, Fraser, and Island Health regions. Of those, 43 tested positive for COVID-19, 42 of whom are not fully vaccinated. Over the weekend, 14 people were transferred.
While the original intent was for B.C. to move to 100 per cent capacity in venues later this month when people must show proof of full vaccination, Henry said she is looking at the epidemiology in different parts of the province and will be making a decision by the end of this week.
“So much depends on what’s happening in your community. It is in many parts of the province where I hoped we would be. We’re looking at that in a more regional basis now. It may not be, as we had hoped in August, that we would have the same approach across the province. But I think I said in August that I was hoping we’d see a full arena for a Canucks game, or for a concert, for the symphony. I think in many parts of the province that is still in the cards.”
“I think masking is going to need to be with us for a while longer. We know, and now there’s some good evidence that keeps coming up that even in fully vaccinated populations, when you’re crowded together indoors for a period of time it makes it safer for everybody to be wearing masks, so that part of it may need to stay for longer.”
Overall, Henry asserted that the fall respiratory season will make things challenging. She said the Delta variant “spreads rapidly when it finds a toehold when people are not protected through vaccination.”
Health officials also reported 2,090 new cases of COVID-19 since Friday, four of which are epidemiologically linked. Since the pandemic began, B.C. has recorded 194,581 cases.
Of the new cases, 229 are in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (including Richmond), 814 in the Fraser Health region, 292 in the Island Health region, 404 in the Interior Health region, 351 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.
There are 5,183 active cases of COVID-19 in B.C. and 357 of those people are hospitalized, 153 of whom are in intensive care.
To date, 7,978,015 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in B.C.; 3,830,063 of those are second doses.
This means that 89.3 per cent of adults and 88.8 per cent of people aged 12 and older have received their first dose of a vaccine. In addition, 83.3 per cent of adults and 82.6 per cent of those aged 12 and older have received two doses.
Sadly, there were 28 new virus-related deaths reported since Friday, bringing that total to 2,029. Of those who died, three lived in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, five in the Fraser Health region, five in the Island Health region, eight in the Interior Health region and seven in the Northern Health region.
Health authorities reported two new healthcare facility outbreaks. Active outbreaks continue at 14 long-term care facilities, three assisted or independent living facilities and two acute care facilities.
As of today, Dix said there are 1,955 long-term care and assisted living staff who have yet to be vaccinated. The Vancouver Coastal Health region continues to lead the way in staff vaccination, with 99 per cent of assisted living staff and 98 per cent of long-term care staff having received at least one dose of vaccine.
For the latest medical updates, including case counts, prevention, risks and to find a testing centre near you: http://www.bccdc.ca/ or follow @CDCofBC on Twitter.
Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Richmond Sentinel