Wednesday, August 25, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC [Updated 9:18 pm]
by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends
The Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce “looks forward to working with the provincial government to help ensure a smooth roll-out of plans for businesses to require proof of vaccination for social and recreation settings starting September 13″, as stated in a release from the business-supporting organization yesterday.
“Keeping businesses open and ensuring the safety of staff and customers is the priority for every employer I’ve talked to,” said Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO Bruce Williams. The Chamber’s membership represents a wide range of business sectors but frontline industries — including retail and tourism — would be most impacted by the ongoing COVID pandemic in terms of immediate safety and sector resilience.
Mask mandate starts today:
Yesterday Provincial Health Officer Dr Bonnie Henry announced that masks must again be worn in all indoor spaces, as the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic is already happening in BC. This came into effect at midnight last night.
This decision was likely made weeks ago, allowing time for the public health marketing to be developed for the August 25 launch and to accommodate for scheduled provincial government employee vacation time in the first few weeks of August.
The face mask requirement is set to be re-assessed well into the fall-winter respiratory season, specifically on January 31, 2022, as stated by Dr Henry in her announcement to media yesterday.
Some Step 3 relaxation in summer:
This time period in Step 3 of the BC Restart Plan (which came into effect July 1) meanwhile allowed people to enjoy their summer without wearing masks. But the wisdom of that is possibly questionable, in that by even mid-May the upsurge of the tenacious and aggressive Delta variant was already seen in the BC Centre for Disease Control (BC CDC) data.
In that context, British Columbians (and the tourism sector most likely as a focus of this) were allowed some room to ‘play’ and gain some economic activity, with the BC government knowing full well the boom would have to come down.
By August 14 the BC CDC data already showed full prevalence of COVID-19 variants of concern all across BC.
In fact, the somewhat promised Step 4 of the BC Restart Plan (which would have seen life return pretty much to ‘normal’) was always stated in the public health plan as “no earlier than September 7”, with September 7 of course being the target around back-to-school and return-to-campus; in Greater Victoria there is a large employment component to the operations of the University of Victoria and Camosun College.
Chamber tough on immunization:
There is also a tough stance on immunization from the Victoria chamber: “Immunization really is the way of of this and there’s little tolerance for people who don’t have legitimate medical reasons for not getting vaccinated,” Williams said. | COVID-19 Vaccine information (BC CDC)
There is a similar hard line on mask-wearing, given the basic effectiveness of covering one’s mouth and nose during an active pandemic.
“The same for the temporary return of the mask mandate. Until we can be sure that everyone we’re interacting with socially has done their part to reduce risk, it makes sense to require masks in situations where we don’t know the vaccination status of others,” said Williams in yesterday’s statement.
The BC CDC says that “masks are most effective when fitted, worn and handled correctly”, in that masks act as a barrier and help stop the spread of droplets from a person’s mouth and nose when talking, laughing, yelling, singing, coughing, or sneezing.
Williams says the Chamber is working with government “on behalf of a number of community partners” on how vaccine passports and mask mandates are enforced.
“Right now, we’re working with government on behalf of a number of community partners on how vaccine passports and mask mandates are enforced,” Williams said.
“It can’t fall to frontline staff to enforce these policies. Employers are already struggling to find and keep workers, and the prospect of dealing with aggressively opinionated anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers should not be part of the job description.”
As of August 24, the BC CDC stats show there were 641 new COVID-19 cases in the previous 24-hours in BC (53 on Vancouver Island), bringing the active case total to 5,357 (430 on Vancouver Island).
What’s additionally worrisome is the higher number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 infections; 138 people are in hospital, with 78 of those in ICU (12 in ICU in Island Health) — with many of those cases in young adults.