Tofino’s district office wants masks to become more commonplace in the community and is reaching out to ease concerns residents might be feeling about wearing one.
“Wearing a face mask can help to protect those around you, especially in places where physical distancing is difficult,” read a post on the district’s Facebook page last week. “It may feel awkward at first, but we’re seeing more and more Tofitians and visitors wearing face coverings to help keep our communities safe.”
Manager of Corporate Services Elyse Goatcher Bergmann explained that the district’s COVID-19 response plan includes increasing public awareness and addressing misunderstandings, rumours and stigma.
She said physical distancing, handwashing and cleaning surfaces are the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but added that Canadian public health authorities also recommend wearing non-medical masks as an additional measure, especially when physical distancing isn’t possible.
“As masks are not yet commonplace in many communities on the West Coast, whether due to stigma, misunderstanding or other reasons, we wanted to send out a post that reinforces and normalizes mask-use for the protection of others, even if you don’t have symptoms,” she explained.
“We know that public reaction may be divided between those who will think the District is not doing enough to protect the safety of residents and some who will think the District is overreacting. Despite public opinion, the goal of the District’s communication plan is to make sure that the community is informed about the latest health advice available.”
Tofino mayor Josie Osborne told the Westerly News that the town’s council has no plans to make masks mandatory or create any rules beyond what public health officials are recommending.
She added that she’s noticing an increase in cloth masks being worn around town and hopes that trend continues.
“People seem to be wearing cloth masks more and more, but I think some people feel self-conscious, some people question their effectiveness, and many locals—me included—haven’t travelled to the city at all where I understand they are a lot more frequently used,” she said.
“We haven’t yet reached the tipping point when we’ll see more people wearing cloth masks in public places than not, but I think it’s coming. As well, I think city visitors might feel they’ve escaped to a place that feels safer and ‘more normal’ and for many of us, normal is still not wearing a cloth mask in public. I hope that as people begin to understand better that cloth masks are to protect others, not yourself, and that they are yet another measure we can take to stop the spread of COVID-19, we will see them used more frequently on the West Coast.”
READ MORE: Tofino launches two COVID-19 task forces