Sunday September 10, 2023 | VICTORIA, BC
For some reason the discussion of wearing protective face masks in BC hospitals has come up again this fall.
Here’s the news bit:
- British Columbians may soon be required to wear masks in hospitals once again.
- The province is considering reintroducing a mask mandate in health-care facilities as the cold, flu and COVID season arrives.
- It’s been five months since the mask mandate ended for BC health-care sites, but Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry has recently said that COVID-19 cases have recently tripled in BC.
- The PHO will be looking at this question of wearing of masks in health-care facilities, according to BC Health Minister Adrian Dix this week.
- The fall vaccination rollout for respiratory season will include COVID, flu and RSV. Dates and details to come.
Health professionals within hospitals have worn masks as a matter of protection for decades in areas where infection-transmission would be likely, e.g. operating rooms, intensive care, post-op recovery, and where patients are known to have airborne infections.
When the annual respiratory season comes up (including pre-COVID) doctors, nurses and other health-care delivery staff have worn masks. Mask-wearing in long-term care homes has been standard for visitors during ‘flu season’ over the years.
It’s about the science, and common sense.
The fuss — in fact, furor — about visitors and the public wearing face masks in hospitals and other health-care setting should be a scientific debate, nothing more.
Sure, covering one’s face diminishes various levels of human response, and in our western culture we don’t like to do that. But knowingly walking into a situation where one could be infected or introduce infection and not at least wear a surgical mask, is foolhardy and coming from a place of seeking social comfort over physical well-being.
Carrying around a handful of those blue surgical mask in one’s purse or pocket this fall and winter season should seem sensible, and to wear one when in a situation (including any crowded ventilated space) should be a no-brainer, and might even be seen as the expected courtesy.
On social media we see folks with opinions on this either way, but in the 21st century when COVID is here to stay and RSV levels are apparently higher than in previous years, it’s puzzling that people would even make an issue about this.
When the room or bus or airplane is crowded or air circulation and filtration is less than ideal — wear a mask. Simple. That includes offices, schools, retail spaces, or anywhere you’re in a space that has unknown levels of air quality, and to be able to experience zero stigma for choosing to protect one’s health in those scenarios.
The mystery around this is socio-political … and interesting that people would risk their health to stand up for what … a few minutes or hours without full-face in view? What is it we’re really protesting when we become so unreasonably stubborn about wearing a mask? That we have lost a sense of place or individuality or dignity in this complex 21st century world?
Western society has become so image conscious in recent years that people are perhaps fighting for a last shred of control over their appearance in public spaces. Would they risk their physical health for the right to show their face? No one is taking away the right to be fully seen in this country. Let’s not sabotage our health — even to the extreme of life or death — to bluster over a point that requires no argument.
There is probably minimal or no immunity to the newest COVID-19 variants (RELATED: see first case of COVID B.2.86 in Canada presented in BC.) And understandably, most people are fatigued at all the attention that must be paid to health management during the continuing COVID pandemic.
However, folks who get vaccinated to the degree that they’re comfortable and then choose to carry on with their lives — with face masks at the ready if they choose to wear one — will be the ones who demystify this paper dragon of a big fuss about masks.
COVID News: BA.2.86 variant detected in BC, first in Canada (September 2, 2023)
BC’s doctors urge people to take steps to protect themselves as flu season worsens (Doctors of BC – December 5, 2022)
Recommendation to use masks appropriately in respiratory season (November 16, 2022)