Note: This article has been updated to include Ontario’s provincial mask policy which came into effect on Oct. 2.
Before you leave the house in B.C., you make sure your door is locked. In Ontario, you also ask yourself, “Do I have a mask?”
Wearing masks in indoor public places was made mandatory in Toronto and numerous other Ontario municipalities in July, with other cities following suit in weeks after. A province-wide mandate was enacted on Oct. 2. After three months, it has become part of the “new normal” in the province, which saw a high number of cases throughout the pandemic.
Just last week, hundreds of new COVID-19 cases were confirmed in B.C., bringing the provincial total to more than 8,900 on Sept. 29.
While wearing a mask has been mandated in certain areas of B.C. like transit, schools, and some retailers, I fear it is simply not enough. I get it; some people hate wearing masks, but the point of a mask is simple: It protects the people around you. COVID-19 is spread via respiratory droplets, which a mask traps when the wearer talks, sneezes or coughs. When everyone wears a mask, it helps reduce the spread by people who don’t know that they have COVID-19.
According to Leger, 75 per cent of Canadians polled choose to wear a mask because “it is the right thing to do,” while 83 per cent believe “governments should make wearing a mask mandatory in all indoor public spaces.”
In the same Leger poll, 21 per cent of respondents said that being “required to wear a mask in public places violates their individual freedoms.”
Nowhere in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does it say, “Citizens have the right to refuse wearing a face mask during a global pandemic.” Hell, even during the 1918 influenza pandemic, people wore masks. The government is not engaging in tyranny or infringing upon your imaginary rights by requiring you to wear a mask. Sometimes sacrifices must be made for the greater good.
In fact, according to a study published by the University of California in San Francisco, countries with cultural norms or government policies favouring mask-wearing have lower death rates.
It’s important to note that masks won’t completely shield you from COVID-19. It is merely one level of protection against this virus. People must also remember physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and self-isolating if they have been exposed or are sick.
In a year filled with so many heroes — doctors, nurses, cashiers, delivery workers, and teachers — you too can be a part of positive change by wearing a mask.
Do it for your significant other, children, parents, and grandparents. Do it for your fellow coworkers, the cashiers who ring in your purchases, the baristas who brew your morning coffee. Do it for the passerby on the street whose name you will never know.
British Columbia has been playing with fire, from crowded beaches to large anti-mask protests in downtown Vancouver. It took too long to demand mask-wearing on transit. As we enter flu season, the risk of a second wave looms over the province. I urge the government of British Columbia to follow in Ontario’s footsteps and implement a mandatory mask policy in all indoor public establishments.
After playing with fire so many times, we’ll eventually get burned — or in this case, become infected with COVID-19.