Protect Our Province BC, Safe Schools Coalition BC and BC School COVID Tracker Issue Joint Press Release

Protect Our Province BC, Safe Schools Coalition BC and BC School COVID Tracker are coming together to ask for mask protection in indoor public spaces, businesses, schools and on public transit in BC.

The removal of BC’s mandated health protections has us concerned for the health and well-being of all British Columbians.

“Now that masking is optional, the use of public transport is a health risk for me. It is not a safe place to be. I am not alone in this risk. Everyone is at risk and no one is immune from exposure to COVID. For some of us the consequences of exposure to COVID may be fatal,” said concerned SkyTrain rider, Joy Russell, at the TransLink’s Open Board meeting on March 24, 2022.

Russell’s concerns are shared by many and extend to additional essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and schools. Masks will keep all of us safe during this sixth wave.

The pandemic is not over. The virus that causes COVID-19 is not done with us. In fact, a perfect storm is forming over BC:

●  The more contagious Omicron sub-variant, BA.2, is spreading in our communities and evidence shows that it is causing reinfections

●  Immunity provided by last fall’s administration of a third vaccine dose to our seniors and our most clinically vulnerable individuals is now waning

●  Vaccination in BC has stalled with third doses in adults 18 years and over sitting at 60%, a concerning number because data for Omicron shows that three doses are much more effective in preventing serious illness. Meanwhile only 56% of children aged 5-11 years have received a first dose with fewer than 40% having two doses.  Also, children under five still have no vaccine available and are completely unprotected.

  • All public health protection measures have been removed, including universal masking in indoor public spaces and public transit. This was done despite the strong evidence that well-fitting and high quality masks (N95 equivalent), worn by the vast majority of people indoors, substantially reduces the risk of spread of COVID-19. 

Adding to this, BC health officials have not yet acknowledged nor addressed how the virus spreads through the air that we share and breathe. Relying on vaccines alone is not a prudent strategy, as COVID-19 continues to evolve, with new concerning variants emerging around the world. If we want to “live with this virus”, then ALL layers of protection are needed until clean air standards are as common as those for clean drinking water.  

We demand that the government reinstate mask protection in indoor public spaces, not only to stave off the BA.2 variant wave that is shutting down services in the UK (and also in BC, such as BC Ferries), but to also honour the BC Human Rights Commissioner’s request to keep universal masking to protect the many communities that are negatively affected by their removal. In that way, we can all enjoy “safe and essential public services where care for one another is a top priority and where no one is left behind.”

Protect Our Province BC is a grassroots group of physicians, nurses, health scientists, health policy specialists and community advocates. We are working together to help people in BC stay safe by sharing accurate information about the COVID-19 pandemic in BC, and advocating for evidence-based policies. Our ultimate goal is to end this pandemic through a vaccines-plus strategy that includes addressing how this virus spreads via ventilation, air filtration and offering better masks for everyone.

Safe Schools Coalition BC is a grassroots, non-partisan, non-union, parent- and teacher-led organization striving for improved, evidence-based COVID-19 safety protocols, primarily in the Kindergarten to Grade 12 public education system.

BC School Covid Tracker is a citizen initiative for transparency of data in schools affected by COVID in British Columbia. Our goal is to make information on COVID cases in schools available, accessible, intelligible, yet anonymized, to school stakeholders (parents and school staff members) so that the school community is able to make safety decisions for themselves and families.