"It's a sign of respect."
That's B.C.'s top doctor commenting on whether she'll wear a face covering on public transit following the announcement that the province will drop many coronavirus-related orders in the coming days and weeks, including the mask mandate.
Health officials announced Thursday (March 10) that indoor mask requirements will be removed effective 12:01 a.m. on March 11. The overnight camp and youth order and capacity limits on faith gatherings will be lifted, too.
Long-term care visitation will also be restored but visitors must be fully vaccinated and will be required to take a test.
But many British Columbians have expressed concern about how soon the province is lifting restrictions — and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry underscored that people need to take an "empowered self-management approach" as the rules are lifted.
The province is removing many of the COVID-19 health orders because there is a lower risk to the public at this point in the pandemic. At this time of year, social activities are especially important, particularly for young people, including graduations, performances and concerts, explained the health officer.
And while some settings will still require people to wear face masks, such as in health care settings, "most low-risk locations will now be an option and no longer a necessity," said Henry.
People in B.C. are encouraged to continue to wear masks in places where they can put other people at risk, such as on public transit. Further, many workplaces may continue to require employees to don facial coverings, despite the order being dropped.
"This virus is still with us," she said. "We are not yet at the place where we understand it enough and we know the patterns and the changes that this virus will undergo and to be able to call it endemic.
"But we are learning to live with it in a more sustainable way, at the same time as supporting people to recover from the measures that we've been through for the last two years."
Henry emphasized the need for personal responsibility and encouraged people to get vaccinated or get a booster dose and continue to mitigate their own risk of spreading the virus by continuing to wash their hands and wear masks in some settings.
"We need to be respectful about people's choices to keep their gathering small or just stay outside rather than inside. And while today's another really positive step forward, we have to be ready to bring some tools back if necessary, depending on the situation as it changes," she explained.
Effective, Friday, April 8 at 12: 01 a.m., the BC Vaccine Card will no longer be required in the province to gain entry to places such as restaurants with table service, large sporting events, gyms, and more. Post-secondary school residencies will no longer require proof of vaccination, either.