Over the past few days, several community members in Burns Lake have taken to social media complaining about those in the community who have been flouting the mask mandate. Some members of the community have encountered others who refuse to wear masks in public, especially in grocery stores.
In response to the rising number of people not wearing masks, Burns Lake Mayor Dolores Funk expressed her concern and displeasure.
“I am deeply saddened that there are those within our community that would choose to put their individual “rights and freedoms” above the well-being and safety of the whole. I, personally, do not love wearing a mask. It is uncomfortable, it makes it harder to breathe (especially for those of us, like me, who find it can make them panicky), and is quite simply inconvenient. However, I do know that scientifically, masks work!” she said.
Last year in November, Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer put in place the mandatory mask order. According to this order, masks are required in all public indoor and retail spaces.
Exemptions for the mask mandate
Henry did leave room for those unable to wear a mask for a medical or disability-related reason and said in those cases, people would be exempt from wearing masks. She also cautioned that not all people’s conditions will be visible.
Some of the reasons for the exemption are if you are 12 years or younger, if you have a health condition preventing you from wearing a mask or a physical or a mental condition, or if you are unable to put on remove a mask without assistance from others.
Several businesses in Burns Lake have now put up a list of these exemptions from the B.C. Office of the Human Rights Commissioner about the mask order in their windows. The mandate and the list of exemptions also states that those who are able to wear a mask but choose not to as a matter of preference, are not exempt from the mask mandate. Additionally, the people who are not exempt and yet refuse to wear masks, could be fined according to the province.
“If you are unable to wear a mask, please order your groceries via curbside pickup and minimize your time in our stores. I do not say this to be harsh or uncaring, I say this because people’s lives depend on your compliance. I know that it is a cliché by now, but we are in this together. And my desire is that every single one of us, will come out the other side of this, alive, healthy, and ready to move on to a new era,” added Funk.
COVID vaccine and masks
Starting this week, everyone in Burns Lake above the age of 18 years is eligible to receive a COVID vaccine. However, despite receiving a COVID vaccine people will have to continue wearing masks. With the continually evolving situation with the pandemic, information on how the virus would behave after receiving a vaccine is still under study and hence, the mask mandate would continue to remain in place.
In fact, even for those who are fully vaccinated, experts and scientists have called for continued care including mask-wearing and hand-washing for the time being.
“Masks help to contain the spread of COVID and its variants. This is a powerful tool that we have in our hands. It is a simple tool that protects our loved ones, makes our community safe and will enable us to weather this challenge!” said Funk.