We are so near to the end of the pandemic. Can face masks come off?

Canadians are getting ready to take their masks off meanwhile vaccinations are being pumped out as quickly as possible.

March 2020 was a crazy time for all people, toilet paper selling out and everyone was terrified. But now we are finally coming to the end of this pandemic. So we wonder: when can we stop wearing masks?

With vaccinations ramping up, we may be moving towards normal sooner than previously imagined.  Teenagers in particular are eager to return to a normal life, and while they can’t wait to have sleepovers, return to sports, activities and spending time with friends, many are content to keep masks on when participating.

As of June 15th BC is allowing; indoor personal gatherings of up to 5 people, indoor organized and seated gatherings up to 50 people, outdoor gatherings up to 50 people, indoor and outdoor team sports for all ages, and gyms and restaurants are open. At this point there are no changes to the indoor mask requirements according to the EPA mask mandate order.  With the 4th and final phase starting potentially September 7th, masks indoors would become a personal choice and most public activities would be back to normal, which will come as a relief to those who are against masks, and a concern to people who believe they are necessary and that we may be moving too quickly to remove them.

The transmissibility and contagion of the virus is high and new variants are making Covid constantly adapt. Science has shown that wearing masks reduces the chance of transmitting and catching the Coronavirus and keeping masks mandatory could be a great way to protect people with low immunity while we wait for herd immunity through a combination of infections and vaccinations.

 Canada is on the way to reaching herd immunity with 20% of the eligible population now vaccinated and 75% of the eligible population with one dose, but there are still those who are against taking vaccines and with a rise in misinformation the anti-vax movement could slow down vaccination rates and herd immunity.

In some cases where there are families with parents who do not believe in vaccines, scared kids as young as 12 years old are risking coming to doctors without their parents, looking for information about the pros and potential cons of getting vaccinated, and some even getting vaccinations without their parents knowing since they don’t need to have parent’s consent.

With plans for a ‘near normal’ return to school in September, British Columbia provincial health officer Bonnie Henry has said teenagers in BC can expect to be offered COVID-19 vaccines before the beginning of next school year. Since that article many teens have received the first dose and there is hope that the majority of teens will have the second dose by September, bringing us closer to herd immunity and masks being optional.

It’s possible though that mask wearing will always be in our future. Just like in some Asian countries where mask wearing has been normalized for years, from protecting others and yourself from a cold or flu to being unrecognizable or having a little extra warmth in winter, some Canadians may choose to continue to use masks for many more reasons than just protection from COVID-19.

Meanwhile, mask wearing is still mandatory and before jumping to take masks off Canadians should learn from their American neighbors’ and listen carefully to what officials are actually saying. In an article by the Washington Post Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s leading infectious-disease expert said, “I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It’s not,” he told the paper. “It’s an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors.” The key is that Fauci said people can feel safe, he did not say that masks aren’t necessary any more.

Canadians may be close to masks off but we are not there yet. Almost every day there is a new update into when life will be normal again, if it ever will be.

Along with the vaccine roll out strains of the virus that are more contagious continue to pop up, in Vietnam officials have recently detected a new coronavirus variant that is a combination of COVID-19 variants and this week alone the cases of the highly contagious Delta variant  in Canada have spiked up 66%.     

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