Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has released the official version of her order returning B.C. to mandatory mask wearing in indoor public spaces, which took effect in a surprise announcement Aug. 25.
The 10-page order was posted Sept. 2, and confirms that masks are required in public areas of retail businesses, including grocery stores, as well as public transit, airports, pharmacies, fitness or sports facilities, theatres, billiard halls, libraries, conference centres, community halls and personal services including banks, barber shops, massage or tattoo parlours, saunas and steam rooms.
It exempts work or office areas that are not accessible to the public without invitation, as well as visitors under 12 years old and those unable to wear a mask due to “psychological, behavioural or health condition.” Masks are not required when seated for food or drinks, exercising in a sport or fitness facility, or inside a vehicle on a ferry.
Physical barriers are required for people without masks serving customers, and the order does not allow “a small or large clear plastic face shield” to substitute for a “medical or non-medical mask” or a “tightly woven fabric” covering the mouth and nose.
Post-secondary instructors don’t have to wear masks to teach as long as at least two metres separates them from students, or they use a physical barrier as defined by WorkSafeBC.
The order officially expires Oct. 31. It includes a provision to ease the mask rule before that as evidence changes, “including infection rates, sources of transmission, the presence of clusters and outbreaks, particularly in facilities, the number of people in hospital and in intensive care, deaths, the emergence of and risks posed by virus variants of concern, vaccine availability, immunization rates, the vulnerability of particular populations and reports from the rest of Canada and other jurisdictions.”