B.C.’s top doctor spurs backlash after posing maskless with fans

Masks top of mind in the province today. Backlash against B.C.'s top doctor not wearing one while posing for pictures at B.C. Place as a broad mask mandate is put in place in the province's covid hot spot. Liza Yuzda with more.

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A local doctor is speaking out after B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer took pictures with fans at the BC Lions game on Thursday night.

Images and video posted online show Dr. Bonnie Henry not wearing a mask, posing for pictures, and not social distancing.

Dr. Anna Wolak, a long-time mask proponent with Masks for Canada, says her biggest concern is the footage gives the wrong impression about the importance of masks.


“People are looking to her to set the example,” Wolak said. Adding, “Yes, she is double vaccinated, which is great, but for those who are already fighting for mask mandates or at least trying to get people to wear masks in crowded areas, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, seeing an example by our chief public health officer makes it really hard,” she said.

Her biggest concern is people who aren’t vaccinated see the move as permission to be careless or for people to argue masks are not important.

She notes that anxiety has been rising since the province began reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks linked to the highly infectious Delta variant.

“Vaccinated people can still transmit,” she said.

On Friday, Dr. Henry was asked about the images, and says that people were a distance from her, and she did ask everyone if they were vaccinated.

“These are lower risk settings, and we need to balance things with risk. This was an outdoor environment, it was a short period of time, there was physical distancing being kept. Those are the types of settings where transmission is unlikely, particularly with fully vaccinated people.”

She says she does wear a mask when grocery shopping or riding public transit, or places where there is a risk.

“If I’m in an outdoor setting where I am keeping physical distance from people, that’s when a mask is not necessary. I think we need to be really careful about sending the wrong messages about mask wearing as well,” she added.

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Earlier this summer, Dr. Henry announced she removed the mask mandate, no longer making it mandatory as of July 1.

Masks are still recommended for people aged 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated, according to Stage 3 of B.C.’s Restart Plan.

BC Place also does not require masks for fans.

“Some people may also continue to choose to wear masks, and that’s okay. We need to remember that we all need to go on our own pace. And there are some reasons why we may be feel more at risk, or it may be important for us to continue to protect ourselves using masks,” Henry said Jun. 29 when announcing the mask mandate would be lifted.

“To the letter of the law, there is nothing to fault there. What everybody is upset about is against the background of everything taking the letter of the law makes it look callous,” Wolak said.

A long-time critic of Dr. Henry is University of Toronto professor of epidemiology David Fisman. He also took to twitter to call her out.

Fisman was not available for an interview to NEWS 1130 but responded in writing saying, “it’s very bad leadership, and in my opinion it’s quite unseemly.”

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