COVID-19 update: Richmond making masks mandatory in city facilities
RICHMOND, B.C. -- Masks will be mandatory inside city-operated facilities in Richmond, B.C., as of Sunday, a change the mayor says is meant to protect the community.
The change was approved by council Monday and will be in effect at facilities like libraries, arenas, recreation centres and skating rinks, as well as fire halls, city hall and other community facilities including the Steveston Museum and the Richmond Art Gallery and Museum.
While patrons won't have to wear masks while swimming and during some strenuous fitness activities where physical distancing is possible, the city says masks will essentially be mandatory for everyone unless directed otherwise by staff.
There will also be exceptions for people with medical reasons and for children under the age of five.
People who refuse to comply will not be allowed into the facilities. Those who forget their mask or who don't have their own will be given a disposable one by staff.
The city does not plan to issue tickets or fines.
"One thing that has kind of been avoided in our approach is actually fining people, or going that punitive route," Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie told CTV News Tuesday. "I would have real hesitation about going that far."
Noting a similar motion had already been approved in Delta, Brodie said, "The science, and the practice, and the public opinion I think was all in favour of the use of a mask as simply one device to help reduce the spread of COVID."
But Richmond's decision comes after a similar motion in Vancouver was defeated in council last week.
Councillors opted not to move forward with a mandatory mask requirement inside municipal buildings, but to "strongly encourage" mask-wearing inside city facilities instead.
The amended motion was approved in Vancouver after top doctors from Vancouver Coastal Health recommended against a mandatory mask policy, saying the requirement can create barriers.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Monday that at the moment she is not planning to create a mandatory mask policy in B.C., but expects people to be responsible in indoor settings.
"It is now the expectation people will wear a non-medical mask in public spaces. It is not an order, because this is something I know we support as part of our mutual responsibilities to protect ourselves and to protect each other," Henry told reporters.
Henry says people who are in indoor public places, including grocery stores, hardware stores and other shopping situations, as well as those who take transit should be wearing masks.
"Those are times we need to wear masks, and all of us need to pay attention to that now," she said.
In Richmond, people using the Minoru Centre for Active Living, which includes a pool and gym, say they are in support of Richmond's move to make masks mandatory.
"It can at least help prevent some spreading," gym user Paolo Uichico told CTV News after finishing a workout with a mask on Tuesday morning.
Brodie expects residents will have an easy time adjusting to the new rules.
"So many of our residents are used to wearing masks for various reasons. It becomes the expectation. If you go into a mall you get some long-looks if you're not wearing a mask. You really should be wearing a mask. At the very least it does no harm and we think it does a lot of good," he said.
The new mask rules in Richmond takes effect on Sunday, Nov. 1, but the city is encouraging people to get used to the new rules over the next couple days before they officially take effect.