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NDP leader confident in B.C.'s mask approach but open to change

Last Updated Oct 22, 2020 at 5:47 pm PDT

FILE - NDP Leader John Horgan makes an announcement regarding health services for British Columbians during a press conference in Victoria, B.C., on Monday September 28, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

If elected, NDP Leader John Horgan says his party isn't planning on making masks mandatory

Horgan says he is confident in B.C.'s approach to masks but is open to change depending on the situation

Horgan notes making anything mandatory increases enforcement and hostility

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — While the BC NDP leader says he is confident in the province’s approach to masks and doesn’t see a need to change it if his party is elected, John Horgan admits that position could change.

“I believe that most British Columbians understand that if they can not physically distance, if they are an enclosed area, they should wear a mask,” he says.

While Horgan isn’t promising anything specific about compulsory masks, he says he is open to changing policies depending on the situation.

“If there is a renewed call from public health officials to review the mask protocols, I am happy to have that discussion. But I think that most British Columbians get it and they are wearing masks. Mandatory anything leads to an increase in enforcement – leads to an increase in hostility.”

If the party is elected, Horgan says any discussion about changing mask policies in B.C. would be led by the provincial health officer.

Both Horgan and Dr. Bonnie Henry have faced criticism for failing to mandate masks in schools across the province.

The first COVID-19 outbreak at a B.C. school happened this week, along with back-to-back record-setting daily case counts hitting over the 200 mark.

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For months Horgan has been encouraging mask-wearing, and he notes companies can make independent decisions to implement mask policies, like BC Ferries, TransLink, and other businesses have done.

“We don’t want people to be reckless when we have confined spaces, when people are moving back and forth from their homes to their workplaces,” he says. “Businesses can make their choices as well, and I think choice is the best way forward and most British Columbians are using their common sense and that’s why we are in an enviable position today.”

He admits he is concerned about an increase in COVID-19 cases about the recent outbreak in a Kelowna school, but says the school plan is flexible and will be amended as necessary.

As part of B.C.’s Back to School plan, masks are required for students and staff in middle and high schools while they’re in “high-traffic areas like school buses and hallways, and anytime they are outside of their classroom or learning group and they cannot safely distance from others.”

There are exceptions for staff and students who can’t wear masks for medical or disability-related reasons.

Students in elementary schools are not required to wear masks.

Everyone is expected to maintain proper physical distancing when possible from people who are not in their learning groups. Staff can choose whether to wear a mask with their learning group.