British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

COLUMN: Anti-maskers’ message misses the mark

Following COVID-19 restrictions now could determine just how happy our holidays are

The timing of B.C.’s latest COVID-19 restrictions is notable from at least two angles.

Announced Nov. 19, the two-week clampdown on social gatherings, recreational travel and religious services aligns with a sharp spike in cases of the virus – Tuesday’s 941 cases is close to the total number the province recorded in the entire month of March, a month that had us looking apprehensively towards an uncertain future.

The restrictions align with something else as well: the holiday season.

The public health order is set to last until Dec. 7, though it’s been said that could be extended depending on how the case count develops. Public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has wisely avoided lengthy, fixed or overly onerous measures, more often choosing to play things by ear as the situation continually evolves.

Between the three major COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and the newcomer, AstraZeneca (U.K.), there is a temptation to, however unconsciously, stamp an end-date on the pandemic in our minds, to look hopefully towards the post-COVID future.

READ MORE: COVID-19: B.C. extends private gathering ban province-wide

That day will eventually come, but it’s important not to look too far ahead – in other words, not to look past the long winter we’ll first have to clear.

The Big Three drug-makers have reported COVID-19 vaccines with an efficacy of 90 to 95 per cent, and Pfizer has already requested the U.S. government to have its vaccine made available for emergency use.

But being the first vaccine producer to market is a multi-billion dollar incentive, and you can bet that the Big Three have done everything they can to make their timelines appear as short as possible.

It’s too early to speculate when an effective vaccine will be ready; better to focus on staying vigilant in the here-and-now.

Christmas comes three weeks after the tentative end date of B.C.’s current restrictions. Add to that COVID-19’s 14-day incubation period and, by my math, Dr. Henry has given us a one-week cushion to work with.

READ MORE: Latest COVID-19 restrictions starting to show results in B.C.

If we do our best to adhere to the restrictions in the final stretch towards Christmas, we stand a better chance of being able to safely visit our loved ones during the time of year that would be hardest to stay apart.

But judging by recent headlines in the local area, not all of us are on the same page. Take what happened in Kelowna earlier this week, when a pair of maskless men entered a café with a printed copy of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, before loudly decrying the violation of their rights to the café owner, who was holding her baby at the time.

Similar sentiments could be gleaned from the protest signs at an anti-mask rally in Penticton, also earlier this week.

These examples aren’t doing the province any favours in the Christmas home-stretch – and the message seems to miss the target. We don’t wear masks because we’re compelled to by the law; we do so because we feel beholden to a social contract in which we temporarily concede some small amount of our freedom of movement and congregation for the sake of others more susceptible to the virus’s ill effects.

But the majority of people are hoping for something beyond a step up from their Charter rights – they’re hoping for a Christmas with their family.

Those who don’t feel constitutionally compelled to wear a mask or adhere to other restrictions may still feel a wordless obligation to their neighbours. And if we all subscribe to that ethic, we’ll have a happier holiday.

READ MORE: 41 positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak in Kitimat


Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
Follow us: Facebook | Twitter

CoronavirusOpinion

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Snow covers Main Street in downtown Penticton Monday morning, Jan. 25, 2021.
First snowfall of 2021

Chances of light snow all week

Crystal Johns used her lunch break to film her audition video for the Vancouver Canucks.
VIDEO: Former Vees anthem singer wants to bring her voice to the Canucks

Crystal Johns made her audition tape during a lunch break

The Village of Keremeos is preparing to open up the village to in-province travellers as the province enters Phase 3 of its reopening plan. (Brennan Phillips - Keremeos Review)
Electric vehicle use continues to rise in Keremeos

August saw 147 vehicles for the peak of the year

Four staff members at the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen were self-isolating on March 19. The regional district is also considering whether to continue keeping its doors open to the public. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
Feedback wanted on plan to make West Bench age-friendly

Some 43 per cent of West Bench residents are over the age of 55

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Auldin Maxwell stacks the 693rd block on the top of record-breaking Jenga tower on Nov. 29. (Submitted)
Salmon Arm boy rests world-record attempt on single Jenga brick

Auldin Maxwell, 12, is now officially a Guinness world record holder.

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News file)
Two Kelowna flights flagged for COVID-19 onboard

The flights were on Jan. 14 and 18

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

A Dodge Ram pickup similar to this one was involved in a hit-and-run in Lake Country on Saturday, Jan. 16. (Crime Stoppers photo)
Stolen truck involved in Okanagan hit-and-run

Incident happened on Highway 97 in Lake Country just before 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16

Most Read