Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced Tuesday (Aug. 24) that B.C. is once again implementing a mask requirement provincewide.
The provincial health order goes into effect Aug. 25 and mandates anyone in B.C. 12 and older must wear a face mask in indoor public settings.
"This measure is needed to ensure these indoor settings are as safe as they can be for all of us," said Henry, noting the impending arrival of fall and the likelihood of people in B.C. needing to spend more time inside.
The indoor public settings include places like retail and grocery stores, libraries and recreation centres, on public transit and in taxis or rideshare vehicles, and at restaurants, pubs, and bars when not seated.
Henry made the announcement during a media briefing focused on the Ministry of Education's plans for return to school next month and those COVID-19-related safety protocols.
"We need to continue to do those things that keep us safe," she said, "and one of those is wearing masks in these indoor settings, as rates of transmission in our communities have creeped upwards."
Keeping a "respectful" distance in public spaces, practicing good hand hygiene and staying away from others if we are sick are also important, she said.
Henry said the order is temporary and will be re-evaluated once the province's new "vaccine passport" program is fully operational this fall.
"I know we all want to put it behind us," she told reporters of the ongoing pandemic, noting that the primary line of defence against the coronavirus is to get vaccinated.
Less than 24 hours prior, during a press briefing on the B.C. vaccine passport, Henry was asked why health officials aren't implementing a B.C.-wide mask mandate as coronavirus cases continue to climb.
In response, the provincial health officer stated that fully immunized individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus.
"We know that it is much, much less likely one to get infected and to transmit once you are immunized," she said. "But masking does play an important role in those areas where transmission in the community is high. We've seen that in the Interior."
Henry noted that health officials would continue to address the mask issue in the coming days; however, it appears that issue shot to the top of the priority list, with Tuesday's announcement.
On Monday, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan both noted that the province is likely not moving into "phase four" of B.C.'s restart plan on Sept. 7, which is the earliest possible date that B.C. would have moved into the final step.
- With files from Elana Shepert