Courtenay council approved a resolution from Doug Hillian to strongly encourage residents to wear face masks in indoor public spaces, as per provincial health guidelines, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. The information is to be prominently displayed on the City website along with links to relevant provincial sites.
Hillian notes the World Health Organization, the BC Centre for Disease Control and Island Health identifies the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are frequent hand washing, maintaining physical distancing and staying home when sick. Each authority, he added, recommends that masks be used as part of a comprehensive strategy to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
“I think we’re all alarmed to see the rising case numbers related to COVID-19,” Hillian said at the Nov. 2 meeting. “While they’re primarily in the Fraser Health region, and we can still take some relief from the low numbers on Vancouver Island, numbers of citizens are concerned that we need to do all that is possible to prevent spread in our community, and ensure that Vancouver Island and our community in particular is able to maintain the low numbers that we’ve been able to, to date.”
Hillian notes that some people think the City should mandate masks, while others disagree.
He said the resolution puts the City squarely on the side of public health officials who continue to make strong recommendations without imposing mandates, and who have relied on the goodwill and common sense of most residents to help council take practical measure to help prevent the spread of this “very serious pandemic.”
Coun. Manno Theos wouldn’t want to shame anyone for not wearing a mask, but strongly encourages face coverings for the sake of public safety.
“We all have to work at doing our part,” Theos said.
Coun. David Frisch supported the resolution as written, but he doesn’t want to skew the perception that wearing a mask automatically means the wearer is safe.
Hillian said information clearly written on the BC Centre for Disease Control website does not over-emphasize the protective value of masks.
“As we all know, when we wear masks, we’re primarily protecting others, so it takes on a collective action aspect,” Hillian said. “I think we treat our citizens as adults, we provide them with the information, and we don’t necessarily slant it in the direction that isn’t backed up by the science and the information from our health care providers.”
Coun. Wendy Morin also supports the wording, though it does not stress the most important message the City needs to convey. She notes recent outbreaks of COVID are due to being indoors and people expanding their bubbles.
“The consistent message has been from the start to keep bubbles small, and to socially distance,” Morin said.
Coun. Will Cole-Hamilton agrees that masks aren’t the silver bullet, but praised Hillian for compiling a “well crafted and carefully nuanced resolution.”
Interim CAO Trevor Kushner said the regional Emergency Operations Centre has released a robust communications plan that aligns with Hillian’s motion. The plan includes new placards to be posted in all Comox Valley facilities.
“Really, it’s about following those provincial health guidelines, which could change over time,” Mayor Bob Wells said.