COVID-19: B.C.'s new mandatory mask order explained

As B.C. is hit with the second wave of the pandemic, you can expect more health orders are on the way. Here's a look at the new mandatory mask order.

RICHMOND, BC., March 10, 2020 - Passengers wearing face masks at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), as B.C. records it's first fatal COVID infection, in Richmond, BC., March 10, 2020. (NICK PROCAYLO/PNG) 00060644A ORG XMIT: 00060644A [PNG Merlin Archive]

With a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in B.C., the provincial government has ordered that masks be worn in indoor public places.

Before the order was announced on Tuesday, wearing masks in public places was a recommendation from health officials but now those caught not wearing one indoors in public places can be fined. That means if you haven’t been wearing your mask to the mall or the grocery store, it’s time to start bringing one. There are some exceptions.

So who does the order affect and where in B.C. do you have to wear them? Here are some of your questions answered.

Where do I have to wear a mask?

Almost everywhere. This includes:

• Malls, shopping centres, coffee shops, and retail and grocery stores.

• Liquor and drug stores.

• Airports, city halls, libraries, community and recreation centres.

• Restaurants, pubs and bars.

• Places of public worship.

• On public transportation, in a taxi or ride-for-hire vehicle.

• Common areas of office buildings, court houses, hospitals and hotels.

• Common areas of sport and fitness centres when not engaged in physical activity.

• Common areas of post-secondary institutions and non-profit groups.

What happens if I don’t wear a mask at these places?

You may be asked to leave or be fined. Anyone without a mask in an indoor public place or who refuses to comply with the direction of an enforcement officer, including a direction to leave the space, or who responds with abusive or belligerent behaviour, faces a $230 fine.

If tickets don’t act as a deterrent, or in cases of particularly egregious contraventions or for repeat offenders, police can recommend charges.

Who is exempt from wearing a mask?

People who can’t wear a mask or who can’t put on or remove a mask without the assistance of others are exempt. A person may not be able to wear a mask for a psychological, behavioural or health condition, or due to a physical, cognitive or mental impairment.

What about kids?

Masks aren’t recommended for children under age two. Health officials encourage them for children aged two-to-12 in public setting, but these children are not covered by the provincial enforcement order. Under that order, people over age 12 must wear a mask in a public indoor space, unless they’re exempt.

Can I wear a face shield instead of a mask?

No. For the purposes of this order, a mask or face covering is defined as a medical or non-medical mask that covers the nose and mouth. Face shields aren’t a substitute for a mask because there is an opening below the mouth.

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