B.C. doctors call on province to mandate mask wearing to slow spread of COVID-19

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Calls for B.C. to make masks mandatory amid the COVID-19 pandemic are growing, with more than 80 doctors in the province now publicly asking top health officials to follow in the footsteps of other provinces and cities.

The doctors have signed an open letter, recommending mandatory mask wearing in all indoor public spaces, in crowds, and on transit.

The doctors say there is no evidence of harm from the use of masks and cite research that suggests a 60 to 80 per cent public usage of masks can significantly reduce the basic reproductive number of the coronavirus.

“The reopening of B.C.’s economy will inevitably cause an increased risk of community spread,” the letter reads. “With this in mind, a recent poll shows that 75% of B.C. residents support a mandatory mask policy in public places.”

Related video: Survey finds more people wearing masks in Canada

Of note, the doctors point to poll results that show 86 per cent of Canadians, “believe wearing a face covering/protective mask on public transit should be mandatory.”

“Mandating mask wearing is important because previous public health interventions, such as seat belts and bicycle helmets, have required laws for increased compliance by the public,” they explain, adding people with “medical contraindications and/or disabilities,” as well as young children, should be exempt from mandatory mask policies.

“We believe it should be at the discretion of provincial jurisdictions as to whether mandatory masking is implemented, but in locations of high population density and/or where community spread is ongoing, it should be mandated,” the doctors explain. “There may also be a role in regions where there is no community spread in order to prevent new introduction of the virus.”

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On Tuesday, B.C. Public Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said discussions to make masks mandatory on buses and SkyTrain have been ongoing with TransLink.

“Yeah, I’m very confident that they are looking at this in some detail,” she told reporters. “I know TransLink is looking at their programs and how they can make sure that their safety plans are being enhanced in the best that they can be.”

Quebec became the first province to make masks mandatory last month. Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton are among the Canadian cities to pass mandatory mask wearing bylaws.

The B.C. doctors recommend top health officials distribute masks to those who are identified as vulnerable and/or higher risk as part of policies, and believe penalties shouldn’t be put in place to enforce mask wearing.

“Rather, we encourage education to help the public understand how to wear a mask properly, and the importance of masks for health and economic recovery,” the letter adds.

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