Province urges people to get vaccinated amidst rise in respiratory illness cases; but there is no mask mandate


VICTORIA – Public-health officials are asking all British Columbians to get their influenza and COVID-19 immunizations as soon as possible as rates of respiratory illnesses are on the rise throughout the province. But BC’s top doctor has said even with rising rates of respiratory illness, especially among children, a mask mandate is not necessary at this time. 

“I don’t believe we need that heavy hand of a mandate,” said Henry. “I don’t see the need for a mask mandate by itself because we have many other tools and a high level of protection.” 

Vaccinations remain the best defence against COVID-19 and influenza. Everyone over the age of six months can get both immunizations for free. People can book their shots through the provincial Get Vaccinated system.

While COVID-19 continues to circulate in communities, the situation has changed. In B.C., more than 90% of the population has built some immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus through vaccination, infection or both, and the number of people at risk for serious outcomes from COVID-19 has dropped significantly.

There are many tools to get people through this respiratory illness season. The most important is to maximize protection through vaccination. People are also encouraged to check daily for symptoms of respiratory illness, wash their hands regularly and practise respiratory etiquette. This includes wearing a mask if they have mild symptoms, covering coughs and disposing of tissues appropriately.

If people have symptoms of respiratory illness, they should stay home and limit close contact with others, especially those at higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19 or influenza, until they no longer have a fever (without needing fever-reducing medications) and are well enough to participate in usual daily activities.

The Province has been expecting and preparing for an increase in respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (known as RSV), as people gather more indoors and many viruses that cause respiratory illnesses circulate more in the fall and winter.

Hospitals throughout the province have well-established systems in place to manage high patient volumes, including regional and provincial surge plans. They have been planning for various scenarios and are ready to respond to an influx of patients requiring care for respiratory illnesses.

While hospitals are seeing higher-than-normal volumes of patients with respiratory illnesses, including children, they are not yet experiencing volumes that necessitate activating provincial surge plans that include postponing non-urgent scheduled surgeries and moving patients to other care settings to free up hospital beds.

The Province will continue to carefully monitor respiratory illnesses in B.C., across the country and around the globe, and adapt the responses and measures in place as needed to protect public health.