Tofino mayor Dan Law is applauding the province’s renewed mask mandate and urging any residents still choosing to remain unvaccinated to get the jab and help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“It’s a reasonable and responsible thing to do,” Law told the Westerly News. “The virus is adapting and changing and we have to respond in kind. We wore masks for months, it worked and we can do it again.”
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced on Aug. 24 that masks are once again required to enter indoor public spaces as well as businesses like shops and restaurants.
Law said he does not expect the renewed mandate to create conflicts in town.
“When the mask mandate was dropped, some of our businesses in Tofino still required masks and I did see some customers not want to wear the mask and leave stores a couple times, but not angrily in my experience and now that the mask mandate is back on, I really don’t foresee reasonable, normal people having a problem with it,” he said. “It just makes sense. Wear a mask.”
COVID cases have risen throughout the province over the past month, including the West Coast region and Law noted several local businesses have shut down due to potential exposures, adding that diligence is a more effective reaction to that rise than fear.
“Those restaurants closed down voluntarily just out of an abundance of caution” he said. “There’s been COVID cases popping up in Tofino over the past year and half so this is not new and it’s no more alarming now than it has been…Everybody’s learning. We’re trading fears for a more educated understanding of how the virus works and spreads.”
He said the booming tourist season Tofino has been experiencing since provincial travel restrictions were lifted on July 1 should not be a scapegoat for the rise in cases, instead suggesting residents choosing to remain unvaccinated are the primary cause.
“Last year, there was the idea that tourists were somehow to be feared and that they’re going to come to Tofino and spread the virus. We’ve seen with the numbers of tourists and visitors in town that, if that were the case, there would be an incredible number of positive cases in town and the reality is there’s not that many,” he said.
“There’s less cases of COVID in town than medical health officials projected with the number of visitors and the cases in town are almost wholly, if not wholly, in a fairly limited sector of unvaccinated people and residents. I think that’s fairly apparent…People have to be diligent. If you’re not vaccinated, get vaccinated. Vaccines are safe and they are working very well.”