Should masks be mandatory on public transit? Dr. Henry weighs in
NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. -- While the message to mask-up on transit has been in effect for months, the recommendation isn’t being followed by everyone, and some are now calling for tougher steps to protect passengers on board.
It’s been over a month since TransLink kicked off an official campaign to encourage face-coverings on board, but at a Mayor’s Council meeting on Thursday, CEO Kevin Desmond said it’s believed less than half of riders are wearing one.
"We estimate about 40 per cent or so of our customers are in fact wearing masks at this point in time," Desmond said. "We are actively looking at other jurisdictions worldwide, in Canada, United States, everywhere else. For the most part, masks are mandated."
Other cities and provinces have already made masks on board transit a requirement, including Quebec and Nova Scotia. As of August 1, Calgary and Edmonton will follow suit. Masks are already mandatory on Toronto transit, although they are not enforcing the requirement.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said that is an option that TransLink has available.
"I think that’s a particularly good option," she said, and added stores and retailers have already put similar requirements in place. "We need to obey those. And I would encourage everybody to use masks in those settings where it’s not always possible to maintain your safe distance."
In the meantime, it’s clear there are concerns. An online petition calling for stricter COVID-19 precautions on transit now has more than 11,000 signatures, with several supporters referencing mandatory mask wearing.
Desmond says restoring public confidence in the system is key to rebuilding ridership, which remains significantly lower than before the pandemic.
"We do believe that more widespread use of a masks is part of that equation," he said.