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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Forty-seven vaccination clinics will open across Interior Health beginning March 15. (Canadian Press)
48 COVID-19 vaccine clinics to open across Interior Health

Select groups can book appointments starting Monday

Seniors in the Interior Health region can book their COVID-19 vaccinations starting Monday, March 8, 2021 at 7 a.m. (File photo)
Seniors in Interior Heath region can book COVID-19 shots starting Monday

Starting March 8 the vaccination call centre will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to Stoney and Minnie lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

Const. Allan Young. Photo: Abbotsford Police Department
Manslaughter charge laid in Nelson death of Abbotsford police officer

Allan Young died after an incident in downtown Nelson last summer

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

Most Read