“With regards to the mask mandate, what are some examples of indoor public places?”
In November, masks were made mandatory for all indoor public places in British Columbia. Examples of indoor public settings includes malls, clothing stores, coffee shops, grocery stores, places of worship, libraries, drug stores, liquor stores, community and recreation centres, restaurants (when not seated or when not eating), sports/fitness facilities (when not working out), on public transportation (buses, taxis, etcetera.), as well as in common areas of office buildings, hospitals, hotels, post-secondary institutions, and courthouses. If you work in an office setting, you are not required to wear a mask when sitting at your desk as long as you are able to maintain a 6-feet distance. If you are going to be walking around your office or in a shared space (such as a lunchroom/breakroom, hallway, etc.), then you need to be wearing a mask. It’s also strongly recommended that masks be worn in common areas of apartment buildings and condos, such as elevators and laundry rooms.

“Are certain people exempt from wearing face masks?”
In some cases, individuals are exempt from wearing masks. This exemption applies to individuals with certain health conditions or other physical, cognitive or mental impairments, individuals who are unable to put on or take off a mask on their own, as well as children under the age of 12.

“Am I allowed to travel with the current restrictions in place?”
While there is no ban on travel, British Columbians are urged to avoid all non-essential travel at this time in effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. While the holiday season is a time when travel is at its busiest, this is something we need to avoid right now. That being said, depending on your circumstances, you may need to travel for certain things such as medical appointments or hospital visits, or may need to do work-related travel within your region. These types of things are considered essential, and travel for these reasons is acceptable.

“What do I do if I’ve been exposed to COVID-19?”
If you are a contact of a confirmed case of COVID-19, public health will contact you (this is what’s known as contact tracing.) If you’ve yet to be contacted by public health but think you have been exposed to COVID-19, or if you have been around someone who tested positive for the virus or is exhibiting symptoms, then you should take immediate precautions and self-isolate while also monitoring yourself for symptoms (such as fever, cough, or a sore throat.) Even if you aren’t exhibiting any symptoms of the virus yourself, it’s possible that you could still be a positive case, which is why isolation is important as this prevents the virus from being spread to others. When you are required to self-isolate, this means that you must stay home (no going to work, school, or any public areas.) If you are in need of groceries, medication or any other items, ask a friend or relative to pick them up for you and leave them in a safe drop-off space outside of your home (avoiding personal contact.) If at any time during your period of isolation you begin to develop symptoms of COVID-19, you should get tested for the virus. To find a COVID-19 testing centre in your area, click here.

“Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine right away?”
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccine is available in limited quantity. Therefore, it is being offered to individuals based on priority. The first priority group consists of staff and residents of long-term care facilities, staff of healthcare facilities where COVID-19 patients are being treated (such as emergency departments and ICUs), high-risk individuals living in shelters, Indigenous people in rural or remote communities, and people over the age of 80; while the second priority group, which is expected to roll out in the spring, will go to people under the age of 80, as well as key frontline workers such as all other healthcare providers, first responders, fire fighters, police, grocery store workers, teachers, people working in transportation, etc. Following these priority groups, anyone in British Columbia will then be able to get the vaccine, free of charge, as it becomes available. You can learn more about British Columbia’s vaccine plan here.

“Are there any side effects to the vaccine?”
Any vaccine, just like any medication, has the potential to have some side effects – although in most cases, the side effects that those who have received the vaccine has been said to be similar to the flu shot – such as pain at the site of the injection, headache, mild to moderate fatigue, and in some cases chills. As the COVID vaccine is new, its risk of side effects or potential adverse reactions is always being closely monitored.

“Until I get the vaccine, how can I prevent COVID-19?”
While a vaccine is available, until more British Columbians are vaccinated it’s important that we continue to follow the same precautions we’ve taken since the start of the pandemic. This means avoiding social contact, keeping 6 feet apart from others when out, wearing a face mask, and washing our hands regularly (or using hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t available.) It’s also important that we continue to follow all public health orders and recommendations, which are kept up-to-date here.