B.C. stores change their mask policies now that they're no longer mandatory

Shopping malls, grocery stores and coffee shops were packed on Canada Day, and just about everyone inside was wearing a mask.

Outside, signs have gone up with new instructions about face coverings.

“Masks are recommended,” read the postings at B.C. Liquors Stores, while at London Drugs, sandwich boards indicated “masks are strongly recommended.” Starbucks stated masks “are optional.”

The B.C. government’s mask mandate order was officially lifted at midnight on July 1.

That means coverings are no longer required in indoor spaces, but health officials are still recommending them for those who aren’t fully vaccinated.

Individual stores can still require masks.

“I’m glad that people are still being cautious about it,” said Dr. Anna Wolak, member of Masks for Canada. “I was really worried initially that this was going to be a “wow, masks off!” and everybody was going to throw all the masks away.”

But Wolak is concerned most of the population still hasn’t been fully vaccinated, and therefore B.C. hasn’t reached the threshold for herd immunity.

“So when you’re going to the grocery store, you do not know what the vaccination status of every single person in the grocery store is, so it would be prudent to keep the mask on,” she advised.

TransLink also confirmed it is moving from mandatory to recommended mask use on the transit system.

“Customers are encouraged to continue wearing masks on transit as a precautionary measure to protect themselves, fellows customers, and our employees,” the transportation authority posted on its website.

The change in mask regulations is part of Step 3 of the government’s pandemic restart plan.