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

Just Posted

Conductor Willi Zwozdesky and pianist Nico Rhodes led 66 local vocalists in song for the Nanaimo Sings video project Keeping Calm and Singing On. (YouTube screen shot)
Nanaimo Sings virtual performance features 66 vocalists

Fifth Nanaimo Sings festival was to have taken place this year

The bow-legged bear was seen roaming 2nd Avenue on Friday, May 7 and again in Brown Drive Park on May 13. (Submitted photo)
Bow-legged Ladysmith bear euthanized after vet examination

CO Stuart Bates said the bear had obvious health issues

Playwrights Scott Rivers (left) and Ray Appel (right) play contestants on a Gabriola Island-themed quiz show hosted by Lesley Hazeldine (centre) in ‘Gabriola Squares.’ (Video still courtesy Ray Appel)
Gabriola Players theatre group presents virtual one-act play festival

Three local productions will be debuted during online event starting this week

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Jordan Naylor gets into position as Alberni Valley Bulldogs player Ethan Bono takes a shot on net during a game at the Alberni Valley Multiplex on April 28. (Elena Rardon/Black Press)
Nanaimo Clippers’ passion for the game carries them through pandemic season

Coach looks back on season following third-place finish in the BCHL’s Island pod

Queen Elizabeth II and Clive Holland, deputy commonwealth president of the Royal Life Saving Society, top left, virtually present Dr. Steve Beerman, top right, with the King Edward VII Cup for his drowning-prevention work. Tanner Gorille and Sarah Downs were honoured with Russell Medals for their life-saving resuscitation. (Buckingham Palace photo)
UPDATE: Queen presents Nanaimo doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

A driver was taken to hospital after crashing a pickup truck into a tree on Rutherford Road near Bradbury Road on Friday, May 14. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Driver taken to hospital after crashing truck into tree on Rutherford hill in Nanaimo

RCMP investigating incident at Rutherford and Bradbury roads on Friday, May 14

Tamara Cameron, Uplands Park Elementary School music teacher and librarian, students Ben Leduc, second from left, Avery Kojima and Kinley Robson, as well as other music students from the school, will benefit from $8,000 from MusiCounts, for instruments and recording equipment. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Money for new instruments music to ears of Uplands Park school staff and students

Grant from music education charity MusiCounts means students will have more ways to be creative

Sarah Boileau in her home studio on Monday, May 10. Boileau’s work will be on display at the McMillan Arts Centre in Parksville through May 30. (Submitted photo)
RCMP arrested a man in north Nanaimo who wound up empty-handed after allegedly failing at shoplifting, bank robbery and robbery at ATM machine. (File photo)
Man arrested in Nanaimo after failed attempts at bank robbery, ATM mugging, shoplifting

RCMP arrest suspect in office-supply store after ‘short-lived crime spree’

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Most Read