Province lifts mask mandate; schools set to go maskless after spring break

Beginning today, masks are no longer required on transit or in public indoor settings, following Thursday’s announcement from provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

However, businesses can still choose to require that customers wear masks.

The new rules also lift restrictions on service capacity at places of worship and allow for overnight camps for children and for youth.

Due to the high levels of immunity, the loosening of restrictions will likely not lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases, according to Henry.

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“We may see a slight increase in cases but I don’t expect to see a jump,” she said. “As rates of transmission go down, we’re all protected a little better.”

In explaining the lifting of restriction, Henry touted B.C.’s high vaccination rates as well as the recent decline both hospitalizations and daily COVID-19 cases. Henry also pointed to wastewater surveillance.

Throughout the pandemic, untreated wastewater is sampled three times a week in order to track COVID-19 and detect mutations. Recently, that surveillance has shown a “consistent decrease” and low levels of the virus in wastewater, Henry noted.

“We’re not fully out of this yet but I feel confident that we can safely make some further changes,” she said.

Henry encouraged British Columbians to keep a respectful distance while indoors and to consider the risk to themselves and to people around them.

“I’ll continue to wear my mask if I am on public transit and I would encourage others to do so too,” she said.

Future changes

Beginning March 18 there will be no visitor limits at long-term care homes and assisted living facilities.

Following spring break, masks will no longer be required for students, teachers or visitors at K to 12 schools.

On April 8, the vaccine passport won’t be required to get into events or to access services. However, individual businesses can still require proof of vaccination.

Businesses will also no longer need a COVID-19 safety plan.

Masks encouraged

Coquitlam library is continuing to require masks in library meeting rooms and while attending library programs. Masks are encouraged but not mandated throughout the library.

Move should have been delayed

The province should have waited until spring break to lift the mask mandate, according to a response from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation.

“The uneven approach between life outside school and inside classrooms will cause disruptions and add stress to teachers, support staff, and administrators,” read a statement from the organization released via social media.

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