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Will B.C. soon change mask mandate as vaccination rate increases?

Henry addressed B.C.'s mask mandate, including if we'll soon drop the requirement like in the U.S.
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On May 13, 2021, Dr. Bonnie Henry said coronavirus vaccination rates are increasing but it is still too early for people to stop wearing masks indoors.  Photo: Getty Images

In a major step toward returning to pre-pandemic life, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eased mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people in the United States on Thursday, allowing them to stop wearing masks outdoors in crowds and in most indoor settings.

But don't plan on B.C. adopting a similar policy soon. 

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday (May 13) that vaccination rates are increasing across the province but that it is still too early to consider allowing people to stop wearing masks indoors. 

While over 50 per cent of eligible adults have received a dose of COVID-19 vaccinate in B.C., Henry noted that "we are not using only immunized percentage, though that's obviously an important piece, both first dose and second dose."

Henry added that health officials are also looking at the trends in transmission across B.C. communities. "I know we spend a lot of time thinking about the day-to-day numbers but really it's how do we look at the numbers over time - what's happening in our communities."

After the May long weekend, health officials will present advice, direction and guidance on several different things British Columbians will be able to do in the future when more people are immunized and transmission rates decrease, Henry explained.  

For now, B.C.'s top doctor noted that meeting with people outside is still the safest option. 

"I always say that when you're outside, as long as you're not in a large group together, talking closely with people, that masks are optional. And we know that outside versus inside is much much less risky; if there's any breeze at all things disperse rapidly," she said.

South of the border, the CDC states that fully vaccinated people can resume activities without wearing a mask or physically distancing. However, the guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but it will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools and other venues — even removing the need for social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

New maps show which B.C. communities are COVID-19 hot spots

The BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has released new maps that show new coronavirus cases down to the community level. 

The maps show the testing positivity rates in communities located within local health areas. So far, the province is only providing community-level data for Metro Vancouver, Abbotsford, Greater Victoria and Kelowna. 

Each week, the BCCDC releases an update of the COVID-19 cases for the most recent seven-day period (Sunday to Saturday). Previously, it only provided information for local health areas, rather than community-level data.

With files from the Canadian Press.