'The science is there. Masks help': Vancouver to look at mandatory mask policy for city buildings
VANCOUVER -- Vancouver will soon be considering whether to follow the lead of other municipalities such as Richmond and Delta and make masks mandatory in city buildings.
A motion coming up for debate at city hall has elicited strong support among the medical community, but the health region's top doctors disagree with the idea.
Sarah Kirby-Yung is bringing forward the motion which includes exemptions for children under five and people with disabilities and underlying medical conditions.
"I think people are becoming more and more comfortable wearing masks. You see it everywhere in your daily life now when you're visiting a store, when you're on the bus," the city councillor said. "I think that there's strong support from the medical community that's coming out."
Kirby-Yung said it would help seniors feel more comfortable going out, and added she's heard from workers in civic buildings who have said it would make them feel safer.
Family physician Dr. Anna Wolak with the group Masks4BC said a letter in support of the motion has seen dozens of doctors sign on.
"We cut it off at 162 just to get it to council on time," she said. "The science is there. Masks help."
Dr. Wolak said the organization is in favour of even broader mask mandates and hopes Vancouver green lights the motion and other cities follow suit.
However, Vancouver Coastal Health's top doctors are opposed to the idea.
In a letter addressed to Kirby-Yung and provided to CTV News by the health authority, Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Patricia Daly and Deputy Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn say requiring masks can create barriers for those who can't wear one, as well as a financial burden for some.
"There is no justification for a mandatory non-medical mask policy in City of Vancouver facilities at this time and we strongly recommend that it not be pursued," the letter said, and also cited the relatively low infection rate in the city and "excellent" COVID-19 safety plans already in existence.
Dr. Wolak said mandates would not be intended to replace other measures, like distancing.
"But you know, clearly that's not enough," she said. "We're in the second wave despite all of that."
The city says 17 people have signed up to speak to the motion, which is expected to be discussed at an upcoming meeting.