A server wears a face mask while cleaning a table on the patio at an Earls restaurant in Vancouver in May. A group of doctors and dentists are calling on the B.C. government to make masks mandatory. Photo: Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Eighty-two doctors and dentists are calling for the use of mandatory masks in the B.C.

In an open letter addressed to Premier John Horgan, health minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, the group Masks4Canada say face coverings should be worn in all indoor spaces outside homes, in public transportation or among crowds.

Dr. James Heilman, head of the emergency room department at Cranbrook’s East Kootenay Regional Hospital, is one of the letter’s signees. He said medical understanding of COVID-19 has broadened since the provincial lockdown in March.

“Because of the increase in evidence of the degree of benefit that masks provide, more and more of us are seeing this as a key health-care measure to prevent a second wave from really hitting British Columbia,” said Heilman, who added he wasn’t speaking on behalf of Interior Health.

There are caveats to the call for masks. The group recommends people with medical contraindications, disabilities or young children be exempt (Heilman defined young as ages two and under), and also does not recommend penalties enforcing the policy.

“We here in B.C. are behind the curve with respect to our policies around preventative measures, specifically masks or COVID-19,” said Heilman.

Henry has consistently said B.C. residents should wear masks, but has stopped short of making them mandatory.

“I have seen many more people wearing masks, and that is very gratifying,” she said at a July 23 press conference.

“I do it myself. If and when we get to a point where we have a lot of community transmission, where we’re seeing a lot of these transmission events happening in places like transit, or in places like retail stores, then this is an option that we can move to. But it is not something that I’m considering at this point.

Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam first advised the use of non-medical masks on April 6, but did not make them mandatory. Rules have since varied across the country.

Last month, Quebec became the first province to require masks worn at indoor public places. Ontario meanwhile has left the decision up to municipalities, with Toronto and Ottawa introducing mandatory mask bylaws.

Alberta announced Tuesday it would require students to wear masks when schools reopen this fall. Henry said the same day B.C. would not make the same rule for its students.

Nova Scotia introduced its own mandatory mask order July 31 by requiring the coverings in indoor spaces regardless of distancing. New Brunswick meanwhile requires masks in public when distancing isn’t possible.

The letter from Masks4Canada cites a July 16 poll released by Angus Reid, which found 74 per cent of the 1,503 Canadians surveyed support a mandatory mask policy. Seventy-three per cent of B.C. residents also approved the policy, according to the same poll.

“Wearing a mask is not a huge burden,” said Heilman. “It’s a pretty simple measure. It’s a low cost. You know, it’s a minor inconvenience at worst and there’s solid evidence that it not only protects you, but it protects those around you.”

B.C. has had 195 confirmed deaths and 3,787 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday (Aug. 5), according to the BC Centre for Disease Control.

Related:

B.C. teacher hopes province will change back-to-school plan in fear of COVID transmission

Feds keep lid on company names, dollar amounts in some COVID-19 contracts

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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

Drivesmart column: Are slow drivers breaking the law?

When I am behind a driver that is going slower it bothers me.

WildWings Festival pandemic edition coming to Cowichan in October

Three outdoor events, two reception-free art shows, and one small indoor workshop.

Jr. B season could start Oct. 1, says VIJHL president

League awaiting final approval from local health authorities and viaSport

Flashback: Trips around the lake, to Japan, and on a dangerous highway

Welcome to Lake Flashback. Reporter Sarah Simpson has been combing through old… Continue reading

Cowichan’s 49ers just miss fourth Grover Cup

Since the 49ers were founded, the team had never lost a Tony Grover Cup final

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

The holiday everyone needs this year: Vote for your favourite in Fat Bear Week 2020

Voters will get to decide who gets to take home this year’s most coveted prize

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

Most Read