Vancouver Coastal Health "strongly" against mandatory mask policy for City of Vancouver facilities

Oct 13 2020, 2:09 pm

Local health authority officials do not believe the City of Vancouver should implement its own mandatory mask policy for city-owned facilities.

This is the recommendation of┬áVancouver Coastal Health’s (VCH) chief medical health officer Patricia Daly, and deputy chief medical health officer Mark Lysyshyn, in a joint letter to Vancouver City Council.

“Given the excellent COVID-19 safety plans in place at City facilities, and the relatively low rate of COVID-19 infection in the local population, there is no justification for a mandatory non-medical mask policy in City of Vancouver facilities at this time and we strongly recommend that it not be pursued,” reads the letter.

The letter is in response to a forthcoming motion expected to be put forward by NPA councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung later this month on creating a mandatory non-medical mask or covering policy for all city-owned public spaces and buildings, such as city hall, the building permit office, and public libraries.

Recreational facilities and community centres are city-owned, but under the separate authority of Vancouver Park Board commissioners.

It would follow the City of Richmond’s on-going consideration for a similar mandatory mask policy for its municipal facilities. Richmond City Council is expected to make a decision on this matter in a meeting later today. Richmond also falls under the jurisdiction of the VCH.

Both health officers acknowledge several municipal governments in Ontario recently implement mandatory masks policies, but they note that this was rolled out based on the recommendation of local public health authorities in the context of the varying COVID-19 transmission risks in the jurisdictions.

Although there has been an increase in reported coronavirus cases in BC, the “overall rate remains relatively low, including in Vancouver, when compared to other jurisdictions in Canada and abroad.”

“In the hierarchy of measures to prevent COVID transmission, non-medical mask wearing is one of the lowest, and should not replace more effective measures (i.e. staying home if feeling unwell, limiting social contacts, especially outside your own family or close friends/co-workers, and keeping physically distanced when interacting with strangers, etc),” continues the letter.

“These are actions that all people in Vancouver can take, and do not require buying masks or other face coverings which may create additional financial costs for struggling households. City of Vancouver buildings and facilities have robust COVID-19 safety plans in place, therefore there is no need for a policy requiring use of non-medical masks.”

But VCH officials emphasize that the use of masks is encouraged in uncontrolled public locations where people are unable to practice proper physical distancing.

Following the recommendation of BC’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, mandatory mask policies were implemented in late August for TransLink, BC Transit, and BC Ferries. The mask compliance on TransLink’s services is between 92% and 95%, based on the most recent spot checks in late September.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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