It remains unclear how store employees are supposed to discern between those who have a legitimate health exemption from B.C.'s new indoor mask mandate and those who refuse to follow the new rules in protest.
Last week, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the new indoor mask mandate for all indoor public and retail spaces, as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the province. On Tuesday, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth officially signed the new order, outlining those who are exempt from the mandate, including children under 12 and those with medical impairment or condition that would prevent them from wearing a mask.
During a media availability Thursday, Premier John Horgan said Farnworth and B.C.'s public health officials are working to address the issue of how store employees are meant to enforce the new order when it can be difficult to tell who is legitimately exempt and who is being “belligerent,” as Dr. Henry said Wednesday.
“[Farnworth] will be working with retailers and those who are on the front lines, working to provide services for people during a difficult time,” Horgan said.
“Belligerent people should grow up, and those that have legitimate reasons to not wear a mask, we'll be working through those issues with Dr. Henry and others to confirm what legitimate reasons to not put a mask on are, and we'll deal with that in the days ahead.”
Last week, a Nelson woman suffered a heart attack after she was spat on by someone who refused to wear a mask in the coffee shop where the woman worked. Other confrontations over mask requirements have popped up all over the province, including in Penticton.
B.C. RCMP spokesperson Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet has asked those with a medical exemption to carry a doctor's note, but disability advocate Wendy Cox says people shouldn't have to prove their disability.
Horgan did not say whether he thinks those who are exempt should be required to prove it with a doctor's note.
“If people are belligerent, I believe that's where the mandatory mask mandate and enforcement is imperative. It's not acceptable to be belligerent about putting on a mask to protect other people, and I believe the vast majority of British Columbians get that. Those that don't will be liable to fines and perhaps further depending on just how belligerent they are,” Horgan said.
“Don't be stupid about it. Put it on, go buy your groceries, take it off when you get to your car and get on with your life. There's lots of things in this world to be despondent about, to be angry at. Putting on a mask should not be one of them.”