B.C. businesses adjust to new mask realities, urge patience

Just days after B.C. lifted its mask requirements in almost all public indoor spaces, businesses in the province are adjusting. While the easing of masking requirements has brought relief to some, it brings worry to others.

Tom Conway with Small Business BC says the move has been a long time coming for many business owners, workers, and customers alike.

“It’s a welcome sense of relief for most folks and most businesses [to have] the ability to remove one of the last restrictions that we had under the pandemic,” he explained. “It’s a welcome sense of relief by those folks who have been vaccinated, especially, and others who really believe that let’s get on with our lives sort of thing.”

Conway says he understands why some businesses may choose to keep a mandate in place — and that’s their decision to make.

“There will be folks who are going to argue both sides. All I ask, personally, on behalf of our small businesses, is that we respect the business owner’s decision of whichever direction that they’ve recommended for their own business,” he told CityNews.

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One business that’s chosen to keep masks on is Massy Books in Vancouver. Owner Patricia Massy says she’s doing so out of an abundance of caution.

“Although many people, if they get COVID they’ll be fine, there’s a lot of people that won’t be fine and will die. So I don’t want to be responsible for being the place where somebody catches it,” she said, noting some of her staff also have immunocompromised loved ones in their lives.

“I also know somebody that almost lost their husband recently because he had cancer and got COVID. He’s fine now but it was a very close call,” she continued.

“We’re not doing it for ourselves, because we’re all generally happy. We’re doing it for other people.”

Massy says she doesn’t know when she’ll lift her store’s policy but doesn’t see that happening any time soon. She says she’ll be discussing the matter with her staff and also gathering feedback from customers when she does decide to make a change.

So far, she says people have been understanding — even though the public health order has ended.

“We’ve had a few people come in without masks, just assuming that they wouldn’t have a policy. But we’ve had to tell them that yes, our policy is still in place. They didn’t give us any trouble, we gave them some masks,” she recalled.

Massy recognizes other industries may have a more difficult time policing their own masking rules, adding she sympathizes with them.

Some sectors aren’t able to make the move to ditch masks as quickly as others. While many have dropped the requirement, Conway says he’s personally noticed many keeping face coverings on.

“I understand the discomfort of some people not wanting to remove their mask at this point as well,” he explained.

B.C.’s mask mandate for most public spaces ended on Friday, March 11, though face coverings are still required in some places such as health-care settings. The easing of pandemic measures also included plans to lift the vaccine card requirement, though that won’t happen until April 8.

Despite the order ending, many British Columbians have kept the practice going in indoor public spaces.

Experts say people may continue to do so for a variety of reasons, such as concern for those around them who may be more susceptible, while others just aren’t ready to take the mask off.

-With files from Martin MacMahon

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