What a difference a day makes.
One day after provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix publicly denied a mask mandate across the province and said present measures were enough to manage COVID-19 and its variants, the directive is back in place.
The Provincial Health Officer decreed Wednesday morning that masks must be worn in all indoor public spaces throughout B.C. “to help slow the transmission of COVID-19 as B.C. prepares for the fall and respiratory illness season.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said people 12 years of age and older must now wear masks in indoor public settings, regardless of vaccination status.
The move is deemed a temporary order, according to the province, while the B.C. vaccine card requirement is “fully implemented” in certain social and recreational settings (announced on Monday).
Under the terms of the order a mask or face covering is defined “as a medical or non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth. Face shields are not a substitute for a mask, as there is an opening below the mouth.”
Dr. Henry said the same rules apply that have been in place since the pandemic first took root.
“We need to continue doing the things that protect us, including wearing masks in indoor, public areas, practising hand hygiene regularly, staying away if we are sick and keeping a respectful distance from people,” she said.
The mandatory mask directive had already been in place in Nelson and across the West Kootenay since Friday when the Interior Health Authority delivered it.
The indoor public settings include:
• malls, shopping centres, coffee shops and retail and grocery stores;
• liquor and drug stores;
• airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres;
• restaurants, pubs and bars (unless seated);
• on public transportation, in a taxi or ride-sharing vehicle;
• areas of office buildings where services to the public are provided;
• common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity;
• common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit organizations; and
• inside schools for all K-12 staff, visitors and students in grades 4-12.
Source: Province of B.C.
People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others are exempt.
A person may not be able to wear a mask for a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or due to a physical, cognitive or mental impairment.
Masks may be removed temporarily in indoor public places to identify the individual wearing the mask, to eat or drink at a bar, café or restaurant, while participating in a sport or fitness activity in a sport facility, or while receiving a personal or health service that requires the mask to be removed.
Masks are not recommended for children under the age of two. Masks should be encouraged for children aged two to 12 in public settings.
The fourth wave
The existence of a fourth wave is now certain.
The province recorded 641 new cases Tuesday, with Interior Health Authority (which includes Nelson) leading the way.
IH has again recorded the most new cases, with 273, while Fraser Health recorded 149 new cases, and 125 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health. There were no new deaths in the last 24 hours. Active cases are up 746 per cent in a month and hospitalizations have increased by 207 per cent. There are now currently 138 people hospitalized with COVID-19.
On Monday the province declared that proof of vaccination will be required after Sept. 13 in B.C. for people attending certain social and recreational settings and events.
The move was made force the vaccination rate up across the province.
Premier John Horgan said vaccines are the ticket to putting the pandemic behind us.
“So I call on all eligible unvaccinated British Columbians to roll up their sleeves to stop the spread,” he said.
However, he also said British Columbia has one of the strongest vaccination rates in Canada with 75 per cent of eligible people now fully vaccinated.
What it means
A new order from the provincial health officer will require individuals to provide proof of vaccination to access a broad range of social, recreational, and discretionary events and businesses throughout the province.
As of Sept. 13, one dose of vaccine will be required for entry to these settings. By Oct. 24, entry to these settings will require people to be fully vaccinated at least seven days after receiving both doses. To enter certain spaces, including indoor ticketed sporting events, indoor and patio dining in restaurants, fitness centres, casinos and indoor organized events, like conferences and weddings, people aged 12 and older will be required to show their proof of vaccination.
A secure weblink will be provided and publicized before Sept. 13, where people will be able to confidentially access their proof of vaccination. Individuals will be able to save a copy of their proof of vaccination to their phone to show it when entering or using designated businesses and events. Individuals who cannot access their proof of vaccination online will be provided with a secure alternative option.
By getting vaccinated prior to Sept. 13, every British Columbian can continue to access these events and settings.
B.C. vaccine card: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/covid-19/vaccine/proof
Timothy Schafer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nelson Daily