To mask or not to mask?

Wearing face masks is still a personal and situational decision in the North, let’s keep it that way

COVID-19 has been divisive in many ways, but perhaps none more so than on the issue of wearing masks.

Despite early proclamations by health authorities that wearing a mask was not recommended for healthy individuals, those same experts have modified that position.

This is no reason to distrust experts. This is the process of science in action. Usually, the internal debate among scientists does not take place in such a public forum, but the pandemic has brought it to the forefront where we can see in real-time how science corrects itself.

The fact is, masks work to reduce the transmission of the disease.

The fact is, in close social interaction with another person outside one’s immediate bubble, one mask is good, two masks are better.

The fact is, as B.C. has loosened pandemic restrictions on social gatherings and travel, we are starting to see a bump in the number of new cases.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer who was so instrumental in convincing British Columbians to take measures to flatten the curve, is not pressing the panic button just yet, but she is concerned.

Just because we’re slowly re-opening, does not mean the measures that allowed the province to maintain a relatively low prevalence of the disease are not still just as important.

The question is when and where is wearing a mask appropriate? Like all of the voluntary measures we’ve grown accustomed to over these past few months, mask-wearing is only as effective as the willingness of people to abide by them. Some jurisdictions are now considering making masks mandatory in public spaces. We are not there yet, particularly in the North, and we don’t want to get there.

While new cases have risen recently (Northern Health recorded its first since June 8 on July 16 and has seen 15 since then), the prevalence in the province, and particularly in the North, remains low.

We can keep it that way if we just follow the advice of our erstwhile top doc who has been consistent on whether or not to wear a mask.

To summarize:

It’s not about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting others.

It is not necessary to wear a mask all the time, only in places such as on public transit, in small shops, personal services businesses and in other situations where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

And, as always, wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face, observe physical distancing and stay home if you’re sick.

Finally, in Dr. Henry’s own words: Be calm, be kind, stay safe.

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