Cloth or disposable face masks provide another means of protection in response to COVID-19. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)

Column: Masks may need to become mandatory to get a handle on COVID-19

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

  • Jul. 24, 2020 7:30 a.m.

If you don’t already own a protective face covering, let alone have started wearing it during public outings, you may want to pick one up soon.

The B.C. government has yet to make the mask use mandatory, though almost daily our provincial health officer and health minister remind us we should be wearing protective face coverings in circumstances where physical distancing may be difficult.

That message was again repeated in Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix’s joint statement of Wednesday, July 22, when they touched on the spike of 35 new active cases of COVID-19. The two noted there were several community exposure events and one active community outbreak being addressed.

As of July 22, approximately 1,000 people were in self-isolation in relation to 70 active cases in Kelowna linked to public gatherings on Canada Day. Henry said she was in discussion with Interior Health on enacting health restrictions specific to the Okanagan.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran stressed those who are out in public need to play by the rules.

“Act as if the group next to you, somebody in that group may have COVID,” said Basran.

The Observer has received several messages from people concerned about what they’re seeing while out shopping or in public spaces – others who are not respecting physical distancing guidelines and/or not wearing masks. Those concerned citizens stressed the point that we’re not yet out of the woods, and there is no place for complacency amidst a pandemic.

One reader advised concerned citizens to contact Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison and Interior Health. Interestingly, if there is an order on making masks mandatory, it may come not from the province, but from local government.

Read more: Two individuals with COVID-19 traced to District on Bernard in Kelowna

Read more: Interior Health identifies COVID-19 exposure at Browns Socialhouse in Kelowna

As of Aug. 1, masks will be mandatory at all indoor public spaces and on all public vehicles within the City of Calgary. Mayor Naheed Nenshi said this bold action is needed now if we want schools to open and do not want to close down the economy again. Calgary’s website stated this temporary bylaw mandating face coverings was informed by feedback from more than 2,000 local businesses and City of Calgary operations.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District recently echoed the recommendations from Henry and Dix on the use of masks. This was after the CSRD directors raised concerns that “citizens are becoming too lax” regarding efforts to flatten the curve.

Even if they aren’t made mandatory, masks are quickly becoming the accessory no one should be without.

Lachlan Labere is editor for the Salmon Arm Observer.

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