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Face masks now required while waiting for public buses in Okanagan: BC Transit

On Friday, BC Transit announced that it was updating its face covering policy and aligning it with the province’s mandatory mask order. Global News

Plan on taking public transit in the Okanagan? A face mask is required — not only to ride, which has been the case for some time, but also now while waiting at covered stops.

On Friday, BC Transit announced that it was updating its face-covering policy and aligning it with the province’s mandatory mask order.

“It is required that customers are wearing a face covering when on board a BC Transit vehicle. The order from the Province of BC also requires customers waiting at covered bus stops to be wearing a face covering,” said BC Transit.

“To ensure everyone’s safety and compliance with the new order, we are asking everyone to wear a face covering for your entire transit journey.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Public calls for more enforcement for BC Transit’s mandatory mask policy

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BC Transit’s policy change comes eight days after provincial health orders announced on Nov. 19 required masks to be worn in all indoor public spaces in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19.

There are, however, exemptions from wearing a mask. They include:

  • People with health conditions or with physical, cognitive or mental impairments who cannot wear one
  • People who cannot remove a mask on their own
  • Children under the age of 12

BC Transit noted that “face shields will no longer be considered acceptable as a face covering as it has an opening below the mouth.”

It also said transit operators working alone behind a full driver door or vinyl panel are also exempt from wearing a face mask.

However, transit staff not behind a full driver door or vinyl panel will be required to wear a face covering unless they meet exemption criteria.

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“Our priority will continue to be on educating customers about the mandatory face-covering policy,” said BC Transit, adding it is rolling out new promotional materials “and will continue to raise awareness about the policy.”

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BC Transit also said bus staff have the ability to report those being non-compliant to their transit supervisor or manager, and that those supervisors and managers now have the authority to enforce compliance with the assistance of local authorities if necessary.

“Customers who observe others not following the rules can report these instances to their local transit office,” said BC Transit. “This information will help our team provide on-road support.”

It also said customers should not attempt to enforce mask orders, adding “it is important to remember there are reasons a person may not be able to wear a face covering.”

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In related news, transit union Unifor is calling for extra security measures for bus drivers.

“Insufficient transit security and police presence has put drivers in the dangerous position of dealing with passengers who refuse to comply with public health regulations that require masks onboard public busses,” Unifor national president Jerry Dias said in a press release.

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“The drivers are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicles to get members of the public where they need to go but not at the risk of their own health and safety.”

“The masks are there to protect everyone onboard, both passengers and drivers, but there have been instances where transit workers have faced verbal confrontation or risk of physical assault,” added Unifor western regional director Gavin McGarrigle.

“This cannot be tolerated. An increased and more visible security presence would help to address the threat posed by anti-maskers who choose public transit as a venue to protest health regulations.”

Unifor says it represents more than 6,000 members at Translink and B.C. Transit across the province, including Victoria, Whistler, Squamish, Kamloops, Vernon, Campbell River, Courtenay, and Duncan.