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COVID-19 advice from Dr. Henry ahead of Canada Day

Last Updated Jul 1, 2020 at 2:26 pm PST

FILE - Dr. Bonnie Henry. (Courtesy B.C. Government, Flickr)

Mandates regarding wearing masks depends on transmission in the community, says Dr. Henry

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VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry was steadfast the day before Canada Day when it comes to wearing a mask in public and banning gatherings of more than 50 people.

With Toronto and other Ontario cities having voted to make wearing non-medical masks or face coverings mandatory in enclosed public spaces to limit the spread of COVID-19, Henry was asked Tuesday if she would provide Metro Vancouver municipalities direction regarding such measures.

She said mandates regarding wearing masks depends on transmission in the community.

“So, I do not believe we’re at the point where we need to mandate it and I don’t believe we have been there,” Henry added.

“That said, I do wear a mask myself and I encourage and I recommend strongly that others do, as well, when you’re in those situations, particularly indoor situations where you can’t reliably maintain your distance from others. So transit, we should be wearing masks. If we’re going to small grocery stores, where you can’t always stay that distance apart from people, we should be wearing masks, and I do that. That’s the expectation we should have.”

Henry repeated there’s no real benefit to wearing a mask outside if one is alone, or by oneself driving a car.

“So those situations, it’s not needed. But we should have one with us all the time so that we can wear them in those situations as they pop up,” she added.

“So, yes, I do think it’s an important layer, but it doesn’t replace the other layers that we have that we know keep us safe, as well.”

Henry also advocated wearing masks on airplanes, or when visiting loved ones in care homes, or when one can’t maintain a safe physical distance.

“So there is no plan to mandate mask use here in British Columbia, at this time,” she said.

“If we end up, during the respiratory season, with a surge, it may be become more directive that we will require people to wear masks in some indoor situations, if we start to see a lot more transmission in our communities. But we’re not at that point right now. Right now, the focus needs to be on doing what we’re doing, maintaining our safe physical distance and having that extra layer of protection, to protect others from us when we’re in, where we can’t reliably maintain those physical distances.”

READ ALSO: Majority of Canadians would back mandatory mask laws, but support not as strong as in U.S.: poll

Henry and the province announced Tuesday that visitors are allowed in long-term care and assisted-living, with some restrictions, including wearing masks.

TransLink is also asking riders to wear masks.

Not all people can wear masks, however, due to medical reasons.

“You should be wearing a mask when you’re taking transit,” Henry reiterated.

“My concern, and I’ve said this before, is there are some people for whom mask wearing is not a viable option because of medical issues,” said Henry, specifying young children and people with disabilities, some of whom can’t put a mask on or take one off themselves.

RELATED: TransLink handing out masks to riders

If one can’t wear a mask, she recommended taking transit during off-peak times or using alternative methods of transport.

While Alberta is doubling the limit on the number of people allowed to gather in one place to 200, Henry maintained the ceiling in B.C. will remain at 50 for the foreseeable future.

“So, right now, it’s 50 in B.C. and it’s not going to change in the near future.”

In a joint statement with Health Minister Adrian Dix, Henry encouraged all to continue to follow health and safety protocols and enjoy a virtual Canada Day celebration.

Henry also shared some of the advice she’s been providing to British Columbians for months on actress Olivia Munn’s Instagram account on Tuesday, as part of #passthemic.

“I also want all of us, especially younger people, to understand the danger #COVID19 poses for our seniors,” she said.

“One of the most important things we can do is to recognize this and protect them. They are the keepers of our history, culture, and language. Here in British Columbia, for example, we need to take extra care to protect our Elders, especially in Indigenous communities.”