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COVID-19: Public mask mandates extended to kids five and up

Measure comes as K-12 students also required to wear masks in classroom
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B.C. kids five and older will now need to wear masks in public indoor spaces

Children ages five and up will now be required to wear masks in public indoor places, according to B.C.’s top doctor.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said the update to the current public order will go into effect later in the day Tuesday.

The measure comes about a week after kids in the province’s K-12 school system began being required to wear masks in the classroom.

The extension of mask mandates to children in public spaces includes everything from malls to buses, and from restaurants to retail locations.

Children between the ages of five and 11 are presently permitted to register to get vaccinated against COVID-19, however, use of the vaccine for Canadians in that age bracket is not yet allowed.

There are about 340,000 children between the ages of five and 11 in the province and Henry said attention will be given to communities where transmission risk is highest once vaccines have been given the green light.

“But we’re trying to do a broad-based approach across the province to make sure access is there for everyone,” she said.

“There will be some pharmacies that are involved but also health authority clinics and various different settings.”

Meanwhile, Tuesday marks the first day workers at B.C.’s assisted living and long-term care facilities must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or else face being suspended from work without pay.

“We know that these are setting where transmission causes strain on the system if health-care workers are infected but also can mean transmission to those who are most vulnerable to severe illness,” Henry said.

An increasing number of workers throughout the province face such mandates, with TransLink revealing Friday workers at the transportation authority will need to be fully vaccinated by November 29.

Provincial public servants need to get both jabs by November 22 and health-care workers across the province — not just those working in long-term care and assisted living — have also been mandated to be fully vaccinated by the end of this month.

Ahead of this week’s start to the NHL season, the country’s biggest hockey arenas have all been cleared for maximum capacity — save for in B.C.

The Vancouver Canucks play their first six games on the road before hitting the ice for their first home game at Rogers Arena on October 26.

Henry said the intent with last month’s deployment of the province’s vaccination certificates was to bring venues back to maximum capacity as patrons show proof of vaccination.

“So we will be making a decision about that [venue capacities] by the end of the week,” she said, adding masks will still be with the province for the foreseeable future.

“Even in fully vaccinated populations, when you’re crowded together indoors for a period of time, it makes it safer for everybody to be wearing masks.”

torton@biv.com

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