B.C. reinstates province-wide mask mandate for indoor public spaces
New mandate comes into effect Wednesday
B.C. has reintroduced a mask mandate for public indoor spaces across the province.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the reinstatement during a news conference on Tuesday. The new mandate comes into effect on Wednesday and applies to people aged 12 and older in B.C.
"We now know that there is still a need for certain measures to be taken," said Henry, citing rising case counts in the province.
"The mask mandate is one of those additional layers that we're putting in place as we transition through the fall."
Indoor spaces include grocery stores, city halls, restaurants, pubs and bars, public transit, taxis or office buildings where public services are provided.
WATCH | Dr. Bonnie Henry says masks are necessary again as we move to indoor spaces this fall:
Henry said the order will be reassessed in mid-October, when the province fully implements vaccine cards showing proof of immunization for those entering restaurants, theatres and attending certain social events.
Masks will also be mandatory for school staff and students in Grade 4 and up returning to classrooms on Sept. 7.
Swipe left for a summary of the spaces where masks will be mandatory:
B.C. repealed its previous mask mandate for public indoor spaces in July. Cases counts began to creep upward shortly thereafter.
The mandate was reimposed in the Interior Health region four days ago as numbers skyrocketed, and officials warned a province-wide expansion was on the table.
Earlier Tuesday, Health Minister Adrian Dix said the province was "seriously" considering the possibility.
"If you're unvaccinated in B.C. today, the numbers show that you have a dramatically higher chance of contracting COVID 19 and transmitting COVID-19, and you need to take other actions until you get vaccinated," Dix told CBC's The Early Edition.
Roughly 75 per cent of B.C. residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but Henry said that number needs to be higher as the delta variant drives up case counts, putting those who are unvaccinated at greater risk of contracting the virus.
Welcome news, says family physician
Dr. Anna Wolak, a family physician and member of the advocacy group Masks4Canada, welcomed the news calling the delta variant a game changer.
"I was pleasantly surprised to have that thrown into the middle of the press conference," Wolak said.
"It's going to go a long way to protect British Columbians as we face this exponential rise in the numbers that we're seeing."
Wolak said, barring any further variants from developing, we should aim for a 95 per cent vaccination rate for the entire population — including children.
"Until children can get vaccinated, I don't think we can look at removing masks any time soon."
Unvaccinated people currently account for about 90 per cent of COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 93 per cent of hospitalizations. The risk of infection is about 10 times higher for people who aren't vaccinated, according to Henry.
On Monday, the province announced that proof of COVID-19 vaccination will soon be required for anyone who wants to attend recreational events and gatherings, such as concerts, sporting events, movies, restaurants, nightclubs, casinos and fitness classes.
Officials also said B.C. would not move into Step 4 of the restart plan on Sept. 7 as initially intended.
To hear Dix's full interview on The Early Edition, click here:
With files from Bethany Lindsay, CBC's The Early Edition, On The Coast and The Canadian Press