The City of Kamloops is now asking residents to wear a mask in all civic facilities, including city hall, Tournament Capital Centre, McArthur Island Sport and Event Centre and Kamloops Museum and Archives.
The request comes following advice this week from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, who told British Columbians it is her “expectation” people now wear face coverings in public spaces.
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said the decision to ask residents to wear masks in city facilities comes because the province is in a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, cases are rising in British Columbia and future community transmission is of concern. He said masks will protect both city staff and the general public.
“We’ve worked hard to reopen all of our facilities,” Christian told KTW. “If we start seeing transmission in these facilities, the first thing we’re going to do is deny access to people that aren’t going to comply with the rules. It’s just like the other rules we have in our buildings. The next thing we’re going to do is have to close those facilities down again. We don’t want to go there. We want to keep these open, especially in the winter, when people are dying for things to do. This just makes sense that people would comply with the expectation and that would be what we’re asking.”
Masks in city facilities, however, have not been mandated. Christian said some people can’t wear masks for various reasons and the city does not want staff to engage with people who are opposed to wearing a mask, so-called “anti-maskers.”
Coun. Mike O’Reilly said the difference between asking and mandating comes down to hard rules and the potential for altercations. O’Reilly noted transit drivers in the Lower Mainland have dealt with upset passengers. “That’s something that we have to be very mindful of,” he said. “In all of our buildings at the city, we don’t have security guards, we don’t have enforcement.”
BC Transit has mandated passengers wear masks, but has not followed up with enforcement.
Coun. Dale Bass heard concerns from transit users prior to the initiative and said she continues to hear from concerned transit users.
“I’m still hearing from people every week that they don’t want to take the bus because there are too many people on the bus without masks on,” Bass said. “I think it’s because the numbers are going up, too, and more people, particularly seniors who use the bus, are more agitated because it’s scarier again.”
Christian said the city could mandate mask use, but has opted against doing so at this point, noting the city continues to take the lead of the provincial health officer.
Across the river on the Tk’emlups te Secwépemc reserve, an order mandating masks be worn in public buildings there was enacted earlier this month by band council.
The face-covering protocol is to be adhered to whenever a two-metre (six-foot) distance between people cannot be maintained, such as in hallways, staircases or shared vehicles.
In a video update, Tk’emlups Chief Rosanne Casimir said the decision comes in response to the impending second wave of COVID-19 as case numbers have been rising in B.C.
“The use of face coverings have shown to significantly reduce the transmission and exposure of the virus,” Casimir said.
Anyone who visits Tk’emlups offices, such as couriers, band members or staff from other buildings, will also be asked to complete a contact tracing sheet.
Meanwhile, many stores have mandated mask use — including Walmart and Superstore — and, in the coming weeks, the North Shore Business Improvement Association will be reaching out to its members, suggesting they follow suit.
O’Reilly said some business owners have been strict about mask use, while others have been lenient. Without a public health order, it comes down to the individual businesses.
“Overall, I think rules are being relatively respected and, again, it all comes down to the business owner’s comfort level of what they want to put in place,” O’Reilly said.
Christian is confident Kamloops residents will comply with mask use in city facilities. He said he has seen increasing mask-wearing in the past month and believes most people are “really, really good about it.”
“Over the last month, since October, I’ve seen a big increase downtown, especially,” Christian said. “I’m seeing a very big increase in indoor spaces in retail. This is just following suit with what the community is already doing, really.”
As for those who don’t wear masks, Bass wants to remind people of those who are immuno-compromised and at greater risk in the community.
“I just wish people would just understand it’s just a hunk of cloth,” she said.