Should British Columbia have stricter rules for the use of masks in apartment buildings?



After British Columbia public health officials announced masks were optional but highly recommended earlier in the summer, Margaret McCabe said some tenants living in her apartment building were just too comfortable so as not to wear them.

“Some tenants in my building have publicly stated that they will not wear masks and that they will not be vaccinated. So the two things together are the biggest problem,” said McCabe, a tenant living in North Vancouver.

Despite signage in the lobby, McCabe said some tenants refused to wear face coverings in the elevator, laundry room and other common areas.

“It makes me so uncomfortable. I feel like I can’t leave my suite. If I go to the laundry room, I wear gloves,” McCabe added.

McCabe spoke to his landlord, who also manages the building, about his concerns. However, according to the Tenant Resource and Advisory Center (TRAC), there isn’t much it can do.

“If a tenant refuses to wear a mask in the building, it is very difficult for a landlord to be able to force them to wear a mask,” said Robert Patterson, attorney and attorney at TRAC.

The Department of Health website explaining the province’s reimplemented mask mandate does not specifically address the use of masks in multi-unit residential buildings.

According to the ministry, masks are mandatory “in all indoor public places and spaces,” such as malls, grocery stores and airports.

“That being said, if a tenant feels uncomfortable, especially if they have particular vulnerabilities and are concerned about being exposed, this is something to talk to the landlord about. Patterson said.

In the midst of a fourth wave, driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant, McCabe is hoping the Department of Health includes residential buildings in its provincial mask mandate and that all tenants try to be respectful to their neighbors.

“People have the right to choose not to be vaccinated, but does that also give them the right to infect other people? McCabe said.

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