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

Just Posted

Ashcroft hospital emergency closed sign, 2016. Photo credit: Barbara Roden
Ashcroft Hospital emergency department closed this weekend

Closure due to unexpected limited physician availabiliy, says Interior Health

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

Heidi Roy of the Cariboo Jade Shop in Cache Creek with the 3,000 jade boulder, which is now on secure display inside the shop. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
Massive jade boulder returns to Cache Creek store six months after daring heist

The 3,000-pound boulder was stolen on Dec. 19, 2020 and found abandoned in the bush a week later

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Child sex crimes charges against Interior’s top doc won’t impact pandemic response: Dix

Dr. Albert de Villiers is charged with sexual assault and sexual interference

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read