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Second wave: Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix answer your COVID-19 questions at Global BC town hall

WATCH: Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix take the public's questions.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix joined Global BC for another town hall on the province’s response to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The province’s latest round of measures to curb transmission were one of the many topics discussed during the one-hour event, hosted by News Hour at 6 anchors Chris Gailus and Sophie Lui — namely, the requirement to wear masks in all indoor, public places.

Watch the full town hall below: 

Click to play video 'Global BC hosts COVID-19 town hall with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix' Global BC hosts COVID-19 town hall with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix
Global BC hosts COVID-19 town hall with Dr. Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix – Nov 25, 2020

Earlier this week, Global News asked its readers, listeners and viewers for their questions in the wake of the Nov. 19 restrictions and got answers to some, outlined below, from the Ministry of Health.

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Why are worship services being shut down?

  • Although churches and other religious centres have worked incredibly hard to put important safety measures in place to protect people, right now we need to minimize our in-person interactions as much as possible.
  • We’ve also seen transmission happening during worship services.
  • Religious services can continue using remote or virtual attendance options, like Zoom or Skype.
  • In the last two weeks, the province has seen a dangerously high increase of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and outbreaks in health-care facilities.
  • The goal of our COVID-19 response is to maintain capacity within our health-care system, to protect those who are most vulnerable and to keep as much as possible going in our communities.
  • We need to keep essential services and essential activities open and operating safely. This is now in jeopardy. As a result, we must now take further action, to step back from our restart activities throughout B.C. to avoid potentially serious consequences for all of us.

Why are restaurants and and stores allowed to stay open, with in some cases more than 50 people, but worship services, weddings and funerals cannot take place?   

  • Places of worship are very different than a restaurant or retail store.
  • In a place of worship you’re often among people you know well. Even if you’re spaced out during the service there’s often a natural temptation to congregate before or after and socialize.
  • Restaurants are much more controlled environments and you don’t see that kind of mixing or gathering.
  • Wedding ceremonies and funeral services may proceed with a limited number of people and COVID-19 safety plans in place, but there are to be no receptions inside or outside your home, or at any public or community-based venue.

Can I still go to confession?

Although churches and other religious centres have worked incredibly hard to put important safety measures in place to protect people, right now we need to minimize our in-person interactions as much as possible. We are not banning visits to religious places, but worship and religious services can now only happen virtually. Other kinds of visits can happen if there are processes in place to keep people safe.

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Dr. Henry said this to a similar question:  “No. I’m not banning visits to religious places at all. There needs to be processes in place so that people can go. They can keep their distance. They wear masks when they’re in common areas — all of the things that you have been doing so far.

What we’re saying is those services that were explicitly under the event order, where people came together at specific times and it was up to 50 people in a space, depending on how the large space was, that we need those to be suspended for this short period of time, because we have seen that despite our best efforts we have transmission happening in those events.”

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: In-person gatherings at places of worship banned in B.C.' Coronavirus: In-person gatherings at places of worship banned in B.C.
Coronavirus: In-person gatherings at places of worship banned in B.C – Nov 19, 2020

What’s the verdict on a UVic student like me visiting family in Vancouver when classes end?

Students are allowed to return home when classes end, but you must remember to keep within your own household – that means no in-person visiting with friends or extended family and only spending time with your immediate household.

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Are face protectors OK instead of masks?

No, face shields are open below the mouth so droplets can be expelled.

I know people who are breaking these rules constantly, putting numerous other people in danger (namely my family). What’s the recourse? Just call the police non-emergency line?

If you have a concern about a gathering, this can be managed similar to a noise complaint, but we need to remember to be kind to each other during this time. Inspections and surveillance from Public Health Inspectors, Bylaw Officers and the Police are being conducted.

These officials can enforce many of the orders with fines, charges and operations shutdowns for businesses, organizations or citizens who break the rules. It is our hope that British Columbians will recognize the importance of taking these measures voluntarily now, for this short two-week period, so we can bend the curve and protect our province.

Is art instruction in an art shop allowed? Am I allowed to be taught on a pottery wheel in a space that’s also a ceramics store?

All businesses must have a COVID-19 safety plan in place, including for any demonstrations or instructions. This should include ensuring that everyone is distancing and wearing masks.

I work at retail store. My company said back office / staff room is not public space so we don’t need to wear a mask. But I think the back office is included. I need clear explanation.

Masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces, including staff rooms where there may be more than one person.

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People who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers.

Can we meet with a friend, in our local area, for an outdoor walk or hike?

Yes, going for a walk with someone outside your household is not considered a social gathering, but British Columbians need to be vigilant that a walk doesn’t turn into a group of people gathering outside.

The more people who meet to go walking, the harder it is to maintain distance.

Click to play video 'B.C. issues new health restrictions, including a mandatory mask policy for indoor public spaces' B.C. issues new health restrictions, including a mandatory mask policy for indoor public spaces
B.C. issues new health restrictions, including a mandatory mask policy for indoor public spaces – Nov 19, 2020

My college-age daughter still lives at home and has a boyfriend who lives with his family. Can they still see each other during this time? Two households but does this fall under the core bubble allowances?

Our goal with these restrictions is to dial back the number of close contacts that people have, even from where we were a week or two ago.

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If you live with other people, that is your pandemic bubble and those are the only people you should be seeing in-person while these orders are in place. If you live alone, you can continue to see one or two people, the same consistent people that have been part of your core pandemic bubble.

These are the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to.

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What about giving someone a ride in your car? Not Uber, just a friend? What about outdoor gardens, like Butchart’s lights display?

Carpooling for essential reasons, such as to and from school, is allowed.

Carpooling for non-essential reasons should be restricted.

As a business, Butchart Gardens should have a COVID-19 safety plan in place which all visitors are expected to follow.

Click to play video 'Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces B.C. mask mandate' Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces B.C. mask mandate
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announces B.C. mask mandate – Nov 19, 2020

Many photographers are offering their annual Holiday mini-sessions (indoors and outdoors). It’s unclear if this is business as usual (like spas, salons, etc) or considered a social gathering since rotating family groups will attend.

Photographers should have a COVID-19 safety plan in place for their business which all customers are expected to follow.

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Are colleges and universities considered schools or public places where the mask mandate is concerned?

At this time, masks must be worn in all indoor public places. At a university or college, this would include all indoor spaces, except while in class sitting at your desk.

Can you clarify what a ‘household’ is? Earlier messaging muddied the waters by extending it beyond those who live under one roof (adult children, etc.) This needs to be clearer for people.

Your immediate household means the people who live in the same house as you.

People who live alone can continue to see one or two people who have consistently been part of their pandemic bubble.

Read more: Coronavirus: How will British Columbia’s new mask requirement be enforced?

Can grandparents take their child, his wife and two children out to dinner. That is six people but the grandparents live in a separate house.

No. This is an updated answer. This order is about reducing social interactions. The only people who can dine together in a restaurant are those in the same household or in the same pandemic bubble. The pandemic bubble is for those who live alone. They can dine with one or two other people who are in their bubble.

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If you are in a restaurant, you need to wear a mask when you are not at your table. That includes coming into the restaurant, leaving the restaurant, going to the washroom.

What does one do when they have to sneeze and have a mask on? I have a bad cold…

We (at the Ministry of Health) hope you feel better soon! If you sneeze into your mask, consider taking if off to be washed or disposed of and putting on a new one.

What about choir practice?

This order is about limiting our social interactions so we can protect our hospitals and keep our schools and businesses open. All events and gatherings, including choir practice must be postponed.

Click to play video 'Why no mask mandate in B.C. schools?' Why no mask mandate in B.C. schools?
Why no mask mandate in B.C. schools? – Nov 21, 2020

The rule around university students is not totally clear. Does it mean they can come home at any time from wherever they are?

Students are allowed to return home, but you must remember to keep within your own household – that means no in-person visiting friends or extended family and only spending time with your immediate household.

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If they are returning from outside of Canada, they must self-quarantine for 14 days and complete the federal ArriveCAN application.

Can our people gather with masks and physical distancing in a church with a COVID-safety plan to record a service? Priest, pianist, soloist, sound/video person.

With COVID-19 safety protocols in place including physical distancing and wearing masks, similar to a workplace, yes, those required to record a service can do so.

I know we are allowed to go for a walk with one other person. My kids want to go for walks with one other friend. Can two families go for a walk or bike ride together while maintaining distancing?

Going for a walk with someone outside your household is not considered a social gathering, but British Columbians need to be vigilant that a walk doesn’t turn into a group of people gathering outside.

The more people who meet to go walking, the harder it is to maintain distance.

Click to play video 'Reaction to B.C.’s sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions' Reaction to B.C.’s sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions
Reaction to B.C.’s sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions – Nov 20, 2020

I’m wondering about the situation with Hyder, Alaska and Stewart, B.C. With the new orders in effect does this mean Hyder will go back to being closed off from B.C. again?

At this time, all non-essential travel should be avoided. This includes travel into and out of B.C. and between regions of the province. For example:

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  • Do not travel for a vacation
  • Do not travel to visit friends or family outside of your household or core bubble

It’s unclear if core bubble means just your household, or just your household + 2, or +2 is only if you’re alone in your household.

Your immediate household means the people who live in the same house as you.

People who live alone can continue to see one or two people who have consistently been part of their pandemic bubble.

Can I drop off groceries for my elderly parents?

Yes – this is not considered a social gathering.

Click to play video 'Ski resorts will be impacted by new coronavirus advisory' Ski resorts will be impacted by new coronavirus advisory
Ski resorts will be impacted by new coronavirus advisory – Nov 19, 2020

I live in Coquitlam. My daughter lives in Campbell River with her baby. She is struggling and needs my help. Is this essential or social?

This is not considered a social gathering.

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Providing support for each other is especially important right now, but we need to do so safely. Consider each other your immediate household and restrict interactions with anyone else.

No spectators are allowed at my kids’ outdoor sports. But strangers are allowed to walk around the track while my kids are playing soccer?

We are seeing that the virus can easily spread when people are close together, such as when watching a sports game or practice.

Right now, this is a restriction that we need to have in place across the province to ensure that we can have these important sport activities continue, but in a safe way during this pandemic.

Do the event rules apply to activities in restaurants and pubs like trivia night?

Any activity that might require people to move around the restaurant, more than going to their table, going to the washroom, or leaving the restaurant, is considered an event and is suspended.

Click to play video 'Masks4Canada welcomes B.C.’s new mandatory mask policy' Masks4Canada welcomes B.C.’s new mandatory mask policy
Masks4Canada welcomes B.C.’s new mandatory mask policy – Nov 20, 2020

What about long-distance relationships? Can I travel to other parts of B.C. to visit my partner?

Our goal with these restrictions is to dial back the number of close contacts that people have — even from where we were a week or two ago.

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If you live with other people, that is your pandemic bubble and those are the only people you should be seeing in-person while these orders are in place.

If you live alone, you can continue to see one or two people, the same consistent people that have been part of your core pandemic bubble. These are the people you spend the most time with and are physically close to.

Can grandparents see their grandchildren if they don’t live in the same household? Dr. Henry says only people living in the same house, but then she says it’s OK for grandparents to pick kids up from school or daycare. Which is it?

We know households look different for different people — like a grandparent who lives elsewhere but regularly looks after a grandchild.

The provincial health officer’s order applies to social gatherings, so if you are part of a social group, now is the time to take a break from that activity or do it virtually.

Right now it is very important that everyone reduce their social interactions so that essential visits, such as taking care of a grandchild can continue.

If two people are working in a cubicle at desks that are six feet apart, is that considered a private office area (no mask required) or a shared workspace (masks required)?

While staff are sitting at their desks, they do not need to wear a mask.

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Is basketball allowed in community gyms?

Yes, basketball can continue in community gyms with no spectators, no traveling outside of your community for games, no congregating before, during or after games on the sidelines or in locker rooms.

Dr. Henry talked about this on November 19, and said:

“For all sports — the other issue that we talked about 10 days ago was about reducing contact sports indoors and we have looked again at the measures and the risks that are associated with ongoing sporting activities. We also recognize how important it is particularly for youth but for adults as well to have the opportunities to engage in these sporting activities in a safe way during this pandemic. So what we have done now is that we will continue with VIA Sport Phase 3 activities with the exception there are to be no spectators at indoor or outdoor sports and there will be no travel for any of these sports outside of your local community. So that is the restrictions that we need to have in place now across the province to ensure that we can have these important sport activities continue, but in a safe way during this pandemic.”

Click to play video 'Confusion over new sports COVID-19 regulations' Confusion over new sports COVID-19 regulations
Confusion over new sports COVID-19 regulations – Nov 20, 2020

What if a worker in a store says they can’t wear a mask for medical reasons. Should they take a medical leave or can they continue to work?

Masks are required in all workplaces for shared work areas and areas where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

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This does not apply to anyone who is unable to put on or remove the mask on their own. We know that there are people with certain conditions and disabilities in some ways that would make mask wearing challenging.

If an employee cannot wear a mask, they must discuss this with their employer to find a solution that is safe for everyone.

What are classified as HIIT facilities? Golds Gyms? CrossFit? YMCA weight rooms? Etc.

The facilities themselves do not have to close, but have to follow the updated guidance being developed.

High intensity interval training, spin classes and hot yoga are suspended.

Do you think the briefings will increase?

The COVID-19 briefings will continue as needed. The joint statement from Minister Dix and Dr. Henry are issued each weekday and the latest case data is available at bccdc.ca.

If I go for a walk in the park, are masks mandatory?

No, masks are required for indoor spaces where there may be other people who are not in your immediate household (i.e you do not have to wear a mask at home).

What are the rules regarding an ‘outside’ Christmas market?

At the time, Christmas markets must follow the rules of Farmers’ Markets, found here.

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Can I pickleball with my friends?

Yes, with no spectators or travel.

Is going to a restaurant with a friend considered a social gathering out of my household bubble?

While these orders are in place, you should only visit a restaurant with people in your immediate household, or if you live alone, your core bubble.

Remember, a maximum of six people at a table, no table-hopping and limited hours of operation and alcohol service.

If you are in a restaurant, you need to wear a mask when you are not at your table. That includes coming into the restaurant, leaving the restaurant, going to the washroom.

We are a Royal Canadian Legion with bar service. We are not a restaurant but we hold Friday night dinner. Usually 20 people, along with meat draws. Is that consider a gathering? We were allowed to hold up to 50 people. But not sure with the new guidelines.

This would be considered a gathering and is suspended.

Can people who work in the Lower Mainland return to the Interior on the weekends?

If you live in one region and work in another, that is considered essential travel and is allowed.

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Are people allowed to travel from Surrey to Cypress? Are those within the same region? Is there an actual order against it, and will there be enforcement?

There is no order restricting travel, but as Dr. Henry has said, we are advising in the strongest terms that people stay in their local community, reduce their social interactions and travel only when it is essential until Dec. 7.

Does the mask rule apply to employees who live in camp accommodations during off-work hours?

Yes, masks are now required for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces, including staff rooms where there may be more than one person.

People who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. Employers are expected to enforce the mandatory mask policy with both employees and customers.

How will this impact the opening of ski resorts? If I live in Victoria can I go to Mount Washington to ski?

The COVID-19 virus travels with people and the more people travel and interact with others, the more likely it is to spread.

At this time, British Columbians are asked to ski and snowboard at your local mountain, going with only their immediate household or pandemic bubble, and to closely follow the COVID-19 safety plans in place at those resorts.

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I am looking for clarity on travel across health authorities. I believe it was recommended that those in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health not travel to other areas unless essential. This order seems much less specific.

There is no order restricting travel, but as Dr. Henry has said, we are advising in the strongest terms that people stay in their local community, reduce their social interactions and travel only when it is essential until Dec. 7.

If I live in Surrey can I play my beer league hockey Ice hockey stick and puck in a Langley rink?

As Dr. Henry said on Nov. 19:
“For all sports — the other issue that we talked about 10 days ago was about reducing contact sports indoors and we have looked again at the measures and the risks that are associated with ongoing sporting activities. We also recognize how important it is particularly for youth but for adults as well to have the opportunities to engage in these sporting activities in a safe way during this pandemic. So what we have done now is that we will continue with VIA Sport Phase 3 activities with the exception there are to be no spectators at indoor or outdoor sports and there will be no travel for any of these sports outside of your local community. So that is the restrictions that we need to have in place now across the province to ensure that we can have these important sport activities continue, but in a safe way during this pandemic.”

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Travel to, from and between communities for athletic activities like games, competitions, training and practice is prohibited under this order. For example:

  • A team from Abbotsford cannot attend a training session in Chilliwack
  • A team from Victoria cannot attend a practice in Richmond