82 B.C. doctors call for mandatory wearing of face masks in indoor public spaces

VANCOUVER — Eighty-two B.C. doctors are among those who have signed a document urging the provincial government to mandate the wearing of face masks on transit, in crowds and for all indoor public spaces.

The Masks4Canada campaign sent the signed letter to B.C. provincial health officer Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan last week, the group said. The group is also calling on other provinces to mandate the use of face masks to combat the spread of COVID-19.

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Officials with Masks4Canada, which describes itself as “a grassroots community group consisting of members of diverse ages and backgrounds, occupations,” added that the current B.C. position of recommending masks be worn isn’t strong enough to drive mask use on a larger scale.

“Mandating mask-wearing is important because previous public health interventions, such as seat belts and bicycle helmets, have required laws for increased compliance by the public,” the Masks4Canada letter says.

“Our opinion is based on recent studies showing that the use of masks provides source-control and may provide recipient protection. Furthermore, there is no evidence of harm from use of masks.”

The group would like to see mandated mask use in hospitals, shops, schools and businesses, as well as anywhere it is “difficult to distance from others.” Transit should also mandate mask use, the letter says.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control recommends the wearing of masks in combination with other preventative measures like hand washing and social distancing, as “using only a mask is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

“If you are healthy, wearing a non-medical or cloth mask or face covering is a matter of personal choice, and it might help to protect others,” the BCCDC website says. “Any mask, no matter how good it is at catching droplets or how well it seals, will have minimal effect if it is not used together with other preventive measures.”

While Quebec is the only province to have mandated mask-wearing, several municipalities — including Toronto, Ottawa and Calgary — have started requiring people to wear masks in public indoor spaces.

Masks4Canada’s B.C. campaign notes that certain people — such as those with disabilities and young children — should be exempt from mandated mask use.

The group also does not recommend penalizing people who don’t wear masks.

According to an Angus Reid poll in July, 55 per cent of Canadian respondents say they wear a mask at least “most of the time” while out in public, while 45 per cent said they “rarely” or “never” wear one. But the same poll also found 74 per cent of respondents saying they would be OK with a policy that mandated mask use.

A separate Leger poll, conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Press in July, shows that the support for mask-wearing on public transit is even higher, with 86 per cent of respondents in support.

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