A group of B.C. organizations has sent an open letter to the provincial government asking it to immediately reinstate universal masking in all public spaces.
The group, including Protect Our Province BC, Safe Schools Coalition BC, BC School Covid Tracker and Masks 4 East Van, is asking premier-designate David Eby, Minister of Health Adrian Dix and Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to act now.
“With masking, fewer British Columbians will get sick, helping to ‘flatten the curve’, and reduce the impact on our already strained hospitals and overburdened health-care staff,” the letter reads. “We are also calling for a public education campaign explaining why masks are an effective tool against respiratory infections with emphasis on the importance of mask fit and better filtration-grade respirators.”
On Sunday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford asked residents to mask up but stopped short of mandating the practice.
In late October, Dr. Sarah Otto, a University of British Columbia professor and member of the B.C. COVID-19 Modelling Group, said they know COVID-19 spreads mainly through the air, so masks are still one of the effective means to prevent human-to-human transmission.
In B.C. the mask mandate for public indoor spaces was dropped on March 11, while students in the K-to-12 system had to wear them until they returned to class following March break.
“Children’s hospitals around the country are in a dire state, with a triple surge of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), influenza, and COVID-19 sending more children to the hospital with respiratory distress than seen previously, despite having fewer cases of RSV than at the same time last year,” the letter released Tuesday reads.The latest weekly percentage of positive influenza cases rose from 6.3 per cent in last week’s report to 11.7 per cent — more than double the seasonal threshold of 5.0 per cent.
The B.C. Centre for Disease Control’s latest respiratory epidemiology report noted that influenza cases are also on the rise there, but did not give specific numbers.
“The fact that Ontario did not institute a mask mandate despite the disaster playing out in pediatric hospitals should not sway anyone,” former VGH emergency physician and Protect BC member Lyne Filiatrault said in the open letter. “True leadership is not about following, it’s about doing what’s right.”
Brenda Hardie, a family physician and Protect Our Province BC member, said in the letter that she spent the weekend fielding calls from parents struggling with sick children.
“I have never seen it so bad in my 30-year career,” she said. “The fact that BC Children’s Hospital is already struggling with volume and long ED wait times is very worrisome, as the respiratory season is only just starting.”
Eby, Dix and Whiteside have not yet responded to the letter.