B.C. mask mandate expands to kids as Northern Health gets hit hard by COVID-19 | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. mask mandate expands to kids as Northern Health gets hit hard by COVID-19

FILE PHOTO - Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks to reporters at a news conference, Aug. 24, 2021.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Province of B.C.

Children aged five and over will be required to wear masks in all public indoor settings in the province, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer says.

Now that kids from K-12 are already wearing masks in schools, it makes sense to keep mask orders simple by including those children, Dr. Bonnie Henry said. Formal orders are expected later today.

The province is also expanding its immunization requirements for health care workers to include acute and community care workers, she said at a news conference today, Oct. 12.

She said high rates of transmission in the Northern Health Region — where rates of vaccinations are among the lowest in the province — are putting a strain on hospitals.

"My health care colleagues across this province are also stretched and we are tired. It’s been a long 20 months and I don’t need to say that to people in British Columbia,” she said. “It’s so, so hard for us to see a preventable illness now affecting people across the province and that’s because we have to get vaccination rates up to protect people from having severe illness.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix said 55 critical care patients have had to be transferred from the north to other hospitals in the province. Of those, 43 are COVID patients and all but one were without both doses of vaccine.

There are only 42 critical care beds for the entire Northern Health Region.

While province-wide transmission rates for the weekend will be released later today, Dix laid out a difficult Thanksgiving weekend in the northern region. He said 14 people had to be flown from the north to other hospitals.

“That’s how they dealt with their Thanksgiving weekend,” he said. “For those people walking around (in the north) unvaccinated, who might be in those critical care beds in two or three weeks, I say to them now is the time... to get vaccinated."

Dr. Henry said the province is also preparing to roll out vaccinations for children aged 12 and under. She is expecting approval for those vaccinations in Canada to be in place by early November.

She thanked vaccinated hospital workers for their commitment, but said the order expanding mandatory vaccinations come with good reason.

“We know these are settings where transmission causes strains on the system… (and) can also mean transmission to those most vulnerable to severe illness,” she said.

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