British Columbia health officials reported a dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases on Tuesday as the province introduced a $230 fine for not wearing a mask in indoor public spaces.
There were 941 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Tuesday — the highest single-day increase to date — and 10 deaths.
Eleven of the new infections were in the Island Health region, which reported 152 known active cases on Tuesday. Two people were in hospital.
Across the province there are 7,732 active COVID-19 cases in B.C., and 284 people are in hospital.
The latest increase in numbers came as Solicitor General Mike Farnworth extended the province’s state of emergency until Dec. 8 and laid out enforcement measures for wearing masks in B.C.
People 12 years and older are required to wear masks in indoor settings, ranging from malls to public transportation, and failure to do so can result in a $230 fine.
Face coverings must cover the nose and mouth, and face shields that have an opening above or below the mouth are not allowed.
Those who cannot wear a mask, or who cannot put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others, are exempt from the new order.
To report non-emergency contraventions of this mask order, people are asked to contact their local government’s bylaw office or the local police department’s non-emergency line. Police may be called if someone becomes threatening or abusive.
“Education is key, which is why we’re having businesses review their plans and getting the word out to communities in several languages,” Farnworth said. “Businesses should provide signage on the mandatory mask policy and inform customers about the requirement. Of course, despite any range of efforts, some people will break the rules knowing full well what they’re doing. These measures give police and other enforcement officials the tools to intervene with and penalize problematic individuals and groups.”
Police in Victoria dealt with one such person at a Yates Street restaurant Monday night, issuing two $230 tickets to a man who they say violated COVID-19 restrictions and threatened staff.
Officers were called to the restaurant after a group left without paying. After finding the group and returning with them to the restaurant to pay, officers learned some of the group had been aggressive toward staff trying to enforce COVID-19 rules.
Police reviewed surveillance video of the man and issued him the two tickets — one under Section 6 for Abusive or Belligerent Behaviour and one for Failing to Comply with Patron Conditions.
Meanwhile, the union representing British Columbia teachers called on parents to support a “culture” of wearing masks as it continues to push for a mandatory mask policy in schools.
Teri Mooring, head of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said in a letter to parents that the union is looking for help in implementing and following mask-wearing protocols.
The federation has repeatedly called on provincial health officials to make masks mandatory in schools.
Mooring said some schools have already taken steps to make mask wearing normal and expected, and it helps everyone to make schools feel safer.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said that schools have specific COVID‑19 safety plans and are exempt from the new mandatory mask requirements set out last week.
Henry told a news conference Monday that students are in schools with a group of people they see day-to-day, unlike businesses where people interact with others they don’t know, necessitating wearing a mask.
She said she supports mask wearing in common areas and among adults at schools.