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Dr. Bonnie Henry mandates masks in all B.C. indoor retail, public spaces; applies recent restrictions to whole province

Restrictions and orders will be in place for two weeks
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (via The Canadian Press)

As COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to soar, Dr. Bonnie Henry has turned to last-resort measures.

The provincial health officer announced this afternoon (Nov. 19) the orders that previously applied to Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health are now being applied to every authority in B.C. for the next two weeks ending Dec. 7.

Henry also made a shocking announcement in issuing an order approval to the Public Safety and Solicitor General that will mandate masks to be worn in all indoor public and retail spaces after businesses asked her for stricter guidelines.

This means both employees and customers will be required to wear face-coverings when visiting a business, except when doing activities like eating or drinking.

Masks do not need to be worn while sitting at your desk, but must be worn in public corridors such as hallways, lobbies and elevators.

The two largest affected authorities (Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health) were the main target of orders Henry put in place on Nov. 7, which were aimed at social gatherings, travel, group physical activities, indoor group activities and workplaces.

Now, all of B.C. will be under the same rules.

"Right now, it is very important that everyone in these areas of Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health significantly reduce their social interactions," Henry said during that Nov. 7 conference.

"There are to be no social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household."

The original orders for the Fraser Health and Vancouver Health regions were supposed to expire on Nov. 23 at noon.

Travel anywhere in B.C. is also postponed for the next two weeks as well, with officials saying only essential, necessary travel should take place. 

Premier John Horgan also shared the same message yesterday (Nov. 18), telling British Columbians to change their behaviours and not to travel outside of their home communities.

"This is not the time to go storm watching on the West Coast of Vancouver Island," he said. 

"This is not the time to be making plans for large gatherings at Christmas. If you're not required to travel, you shouldn't travel."

All community-based social gatherings or events are also suspended under the order including those with less than 50 people. Henry also said places of worship are to have no in-person group services.

Weddings, baptisms and funerals are still allowed to happen in places of worship with less than 10 people; no gatherings are allowed after such events.

The order also does not apply, however, to businesses and support group meetings that sometimes take place in religious or other event spaces. 

Health officials will be stepping up enforcement on businesses and places like restaurants, pubs and other places the virus could transmit quickly. 

Henry also asked employers to suspend efforts to get workers back into the workplace and work from home whenever possible until at least the new year.

For sports, those associated with viaSport BC will remain in Phase Three of its COVID-19 safety protocols, meaning games, practices and training can still take place, but travel is prohibited and teams are asked to stay within their own community.

Spectators are still not allowed, Dr. Henry added in her order.

Indoor fitness groups have been postponed immediately, including hot yoga, spin classes and high-intense training sessions.

Regular yoga and dance classes, however, can still take place if proper measures are in place, like sanitization and physical distancing.

- with files from Kyle Balzer, PrinceGeorgeMatters, Glen Kordstrom, Business In Vancouver, and Matt Prepost, Alaska Highway News