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'We take people at their word': Dr. Bonnie Henry explains what to do when someone isn't wearing a mask

"We need to be able to accommodate them."
A person on public transportation wearing a mask notices other people who are not wearing masks / Getty Images.

Today, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced a host of new restrictions in the wake of surging cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in B.C. 

In a news briefing, B.C.'s top doctor stated that all British Columbians are ordered to stop any non-essential travel outside of their respective health regions until Dec. 7. Several other indoor activities will be put on hold, as well as all community-based gatherings. 

Henry also instated a mandatory mask policy in indoor public and retail spaces, which includes all corridors, elevators and common areas; the policy includes both staff and customers. However, she underscores that some people are exempt from the mask policy. 

When asked whether people with underlying illnesses will be given a type of identifier—such as a badge or exemption card—Henry emphasized that we "take people at their word." 


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"We need to be able to Accommodate Them"

"There is no way that we will force people to have medical notes or other things," she explained. "We need to trust that people who cannot wear masks—and there are some people who cannot masks—we need to be able to accommodate them."

Henry said businesses and facilities can also find ways to provide services to people who cannot wear masks, such as provide remote pick up. 

"People in retail settings, going to get a driver's license renewed. Those are not the situations where we're seeing transmission of infection," she added. "But it is important that workers feel that they are protected and that they have the appropriate measures in place to require both workplaces and people who are entering those public spaces and retail spaces to protect them."

In schools, Henry noted that children are not expected to don facial coverings while sitting at their desks: "I wouldn't wear a mask sitting at my office. We don't expect children to wear masks sitting at their desks all day long."

How the provincial travel restriction will be enforced 

The provincial health officer also made some clarifications regarding "essential" travel, noting that it can be difficult to know why someone has to travel. She also mentioned that the travel restrictions were successful back in the spring, and hopes that the majority of people will delay recreational excursions. 

"We know that when we had the same requirements in place earlier this year, people took them to heart," said Henry. "It really is about remembering that we don't always know people's stories, and there are many reasons why somebody may be coming. 

"They may have a need to check on a family member."

The order does not restrict flights entering and leaving B.C.

Some new orders include that:

  • all British Columbians are ordered to avoid non-essential travel outside their home health region until December 7;

  • fitness facilities, such as spin-class businesses and hot yoga studios, will be ordered to close;

  • all community based social gatherings, or events, will be suspended provincewide for the next two weeks, including those with less than 50 people and are in controlled settings; and

  •  mandatory wearing of masks in all indoor public common areas and retail spaces not only for staff but also for customers.

These activities are not considered a social gathering:

  • Going for a walk. You must make sure a walk does not turn into a group of people meeting outside

  • Parents carpooling kids to and from school

  • Grandparents providing child care

--With a file from the Tri-City News.