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

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

(Black Press Media file photo)
Blue-green algae bloom confirmed in Elk Lake, water-based activities not recommended

Blue-green algae can be lethal to dogs, cause health issues for humans

Victoria police arrested a man Jan. 15 after he rammed his minivan into an occupied police vehicle. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria man arrested for ramming minivan into occupied police vehicle

Man caught after fleeing, crashing into cement retaining wall

Mayor Rob Martin and Costa Canna president Phil Floucault cut the ribbon on Colwood’s first cannabis retail store. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Cowichan Tribes’ Costa Canna cannabis store opens in Colwood

Cowichan Tribes has one-year deal to grow, sell cannabis

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests: Greater Victoria teacher union

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Lilly and Poppy, two cats owned by Kalmar Cat Hotel ownder Donna Goodenough, both have cerebellAr hypoplasia, a genetic neurological condition that affects their ability to control their muscles and bones. Photo by Alistair Taylor – Campbell River Mirror
VIDEO: Wobbly Cats a riot of flailing legs and paws but bundles of love and joy to their owner

Woman urges others to not fear adopting cats with disabilities

Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa on Friday, Jan. 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s top doctor says to avoid non-essential travel as B.C. explores legal options

Premier John Horgan says he is seeking legal advice on whether it can limit interprovincial travel

Martin Luther King Jr. addresses the crowd during the march on Washington, D.C., in August of 1963. Courtesy photo
Government reinforces importance of anti-racism act on Black Shirt Day

B.C. Ministers say education “a powerful tool” in the fight for equity and equality

Black Press media file
Port McNeill driver tells police he thought the pandemic meant no breathalyzers

Suspect facing criminal charges after breathalyzer readings in excess of 3.5 times the legal limit

Most Read