COVID-19: End of provincial mask order hardly noticeable in public on Day 1

Majority of those on transit, in restaurants, even on streets remained masked on Friday.

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On the first day that face masks were no longer required in BC, one of Vancouver’s busiest pedestrian intersections, the corner of Broadway and Cambie, was still flooded with masks.

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Only a few Canada Line passengers emerged from the station without a mask. Looking at the prevalence of masks in restaurants, stores, businesses, buses and even on the sidewalks outdoors, it wasn’t obvious the provincial health officer had declared the mask mandate largely over.

“I always wear a mask, but I thought, I’m going to give it a test and see how it feels,” said Kim Larsen, one of the few without a mask coming from the Canada Line station, where signs are still posted mandating masks.

“It feels really good,” he said. “It felt a little like I did something wrong and I expected some negative feedback, but no, there was none.”

Larsen had a mask with him and expected to put it on at his dentist’s appointment that day.

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He wasn’t sure if he would avoid crowded venues that don’t stick by their own mandatory mask policy. “It’s a tough question because it’s only day one. If it’s really crowded, maybe. On the way home, if it (the Canada Line) is packed, I may wear a mask.”

TransLink announced masks would no longer be mandatory in its transit system but said signs may remain, as they did on Friday at the Broadway-City Hall station, until crews have had a chance to remove them.

The transition to walking around barefaced in public would also likely be gradual.

“I think it’s going to take awhile to get used to it,” said Buse Bedir, who did a quick shop in Whole Foods without her usual face-covering, admitting the experience was a little uncomfortable. “I would probably still use it on transit.”

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“It definitely feels a little naked,” said Blair Graham, a nurse on maternity leave shopping at Save-On Foods. “It’s going to take a bit of time for this to feel normal. It’s been two years. They say it takes 90 days for a habit to form.”

She said it felt like 90 per cent of shoppers around her were still masked.

Graham also said she was prepared for the mandate to be reinstated if COVID cases or hospitalizations rose again.

“I think I’ll always wear a mask,” said Save-On shopper Mary Kehler. “I feel more protected from germs in general. No flus, no colds, no COVID. I think you’re going to see a lot more masks from now on. In China, they wear masks.”

She also said she isn’t sure everyone is aware yet the mandate has been lifted.

Commuter Rose Baktashi outside Broadway-City Hall station Friday.
Commuter Rose Baktashi outside Broadway-City Hall station Friday. Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

Rose Baktashi said she chooses to continue to wear a mask out in public, including for the Canada Line trip she was about to take on Friday.

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“People are sitting right beside you and they’re 15 centimeters away from my face, “ she said, adding she would likely continue wearing it in a crowded grocery store, too, but wouldn’t hesitate to take it off in a restaurant.

Like most of the others interviewed on Friday, masked or unmasked, she said she didn’t fear COVID because she was triple-vaccinated and healthy.

And Baktashi said she fully respects the right of each individual to make the mask decision for himself.

“They have a right to choose,” she said. “It’s a free country.”

But she is also concerned for those who may be immunocompromised or otherwise vulnerable to COVID.

“I hope there are options for them,” she said, as fewer people choose to mask up in public.

“People don’t have a sign around their neck saying vaxxed or not vaxxed, so you don’t know” whether you or they are vulnerable, said Larsen.

Signs mandating mask-wearing were still posted at a number of businesses on Broadway.

Gina Law, owner of Radiant Hair and Nail Salon, said she is letting customers tell her whether they prefer a mask or not.

She said there wasn’t much time for an adjustment to the new rules.

“It’s a bit too fast,” she said.

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