On Thursday, November 19th, British Columbia’s health officials – Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer, alongside Adrian Dix, Minister of Health – announced new (and extended) orders in effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in our province. It was a lot of information to take it at once, nonetheless, so below we break down what some of these orders mean for British Columbians.
Prior to Thursday’s announcements, many of the restrictions were limited to the Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions where they were asked to significantly reduce their social interactions as well as travel. However, these restrictions are now Province-wide and will remain in effect until midnight on December 7th (with the possibility of being extended.)
It is ordered that British Columbians cannot have social gatherings of any size with anyone other than those already in their immediate household. This means that you should not invite any friends or extended family to your household – including hosting outdoor gatherings, meeting friends for coffee, as well as not having playdates for children. If you live alone, your core bubble can consist of no more than two people. They must be the same two people every time and should be people that you already regularly interacted with in-person prior to the pandemic.
Employers must ensure their workplaces review and keep up-to-date their COVID-19 Safety Plan. All employers must post their Safety Plan in the office, as well as post a copy of it on their website (if a website is available.) Employers must also ensure that all of their employees are conducting daily health checks before going to the office. If an employee has any symptoms of COVID-19, whether it’s cough, sore throat, or runny nose, they must stay home no matter how mild those symptoms. Physical distancing must be maintained in offices at all times, in all spaces.
Employers must also make working from home a possibility for their employees. Where there are employees already working from home, employers must immediately suspend their efforts to have those employees return to the office and allow their remote work to continue until at least the new year. “This will be reviewed early in January,” tweeted Health Minister Adrian Dix.
WorkSafe BC will also be increasing their inspections of workplaces. Any workplace found to be non-compliant of any of the orders set forth could be subjected to fines or ordered to close.
All non-essential travel is to be avoided. This includes travel to and from regions within B.C., as well as travel in and out of the province. This means that you should not travel to go on vacation anywhere, nor should you travel to visit any friends or family outside of your immediate household. For example, as Dr. Bonnie Henry stated during her briefing, if you live in Victoria you should not be going to Tofino – and if you live in Vancouver, you should not be going to Whistler. As for what counts as travel that is considered essential, this would include regular travel for work (as long as it is within your region), as well as if you need to travel to and from medical appointments or if you have to go to the hospital. This type of essential travel is allowed.
Masks are now mandatory for everyone in all public indoor settings and workplaces (except for those who are exempt for medical reasons (including psychological), or are under the age of 12.) Examples of indoor public settings where masks are mandatory include malls/shopping centres, grocery stores, coffee shops, libraries, drug stores, clothing stores, liquor stores, community centres, recreation centres, restaurants and bars, and anywhere that is deemed a public place.
When it comes to wearing masks in workplaces, all employers must enforce the mandatory mask policy with both their employees as well as their customers. If you are sitting at your desk and are not next to anyone else, you do not have to wear a mask. However, when away from your desk and around others (for example, in hallways, stairways, breakrooms, elevators, or dealing with customers at a front counter), you are expected to wear a mask.
Remember, it’s important that everyone do their part and follow these orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.