LETTERS: We need mask mandate now, not later

In response to the concerns of many experts, businesses and citizens, Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon writes:

Health authorities in B.C. should immediately mandate the use of masks in all public, indoor spaces, including transit, in middle and secondary schools, and in situations where people are in close proximity to each other outdoors.

The time to implement such an order is now — before, not after, a new surge of COVID-19 infections. Observations of behaviour around the province indicate many people are becoming complacent; they seem to believe we’ve beaten the disease. But other jurisdictions, like Melbourne, Australia thought they’d largely eliminated the virus too, and now they’re suffering the economic and social devastation of a second, far more severe lockdown.

Enjoying Saturday morning entertainment in downtown Qualicum Beach.

Scientific research released in the last weeks shows that aerosol transmission of the virus — by tiny particles that a person can emit by talking and even just by breathing — is a much more powerful mechanism of infection than previously recognized.

A research team from Harvard and the Illinois Institute of Technology developed a detailed mathematical analysis of transmission routes on the Diamond Princess cruise ship; they estimate that nearly 60 per cent of infections were a product of transmission through inhalable aerosols (under 10 microns in diameter).

New research suggests, too, that masks protect both the wearer and people near the wearer by interfering with the mobility of aerosol particles, thus reducing the distance these particles can travel and the viral load that people inhale.

Thirty-three American states and nearly all European, Asian, and African countries now have some kind of mask mandate. Evidence from Asia countries suggests that the widespread use of masks can keep COVID-19’s reproduction rate below 1.

A mask mandate will have to be introduced in British Columbia sooner or later. We’ll all be better off, because we’ll be more likely to head off the next COVID-19 wave, if it’s sooner.

Thomas Homer-Dixon
University Research Chair
University of Waterloo
Director, Cascade Institute
Royal Roads University