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Mask a 'choice' to keep family safe, mayor says

There are no plans to make face masks mandatory in Fort St. John, but Mayor Lori Ackerman says she has still been wearing one to protect her vulnerable family members and friends from COVID-19.
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Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman outside city hall, Aug. 17, 2020: “I have chosen to wear the mask in situations where I don’t know if I’m going to be able to physical distance and I’m going into a public place. I have vulnerable people in my family and my social circle, so that is a choice I have made.”

There are no plans to make face masks mandatory in Fort St. John, but Mayor Lori Ackerman says she has still been wearing one to protect her vulnerable family members and friends from COVID-19.

“I understand this is a controversial topic for a lot of people,” Ackerman said outside city hall on Monday. “I have chosen to wear the mask in situations where I don’t know if I’m going to be able to physical distance, and I’m going into a public place. I have vulnerable people in my family and my social circle, so that is a choice I have made."

“I understand that it is a real source of contention for some people. I think decades from now when I look back it, I can say that I did my best to keep my family safe,” said Ackerman, whose husband continues to fight cancer.

Some B.C. students and doctors have been pushing the province to mandate mask-wearing in crowds and for all indoor public spaces. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has so far resisted those calls, and called the idea a “heavy-handed approach" during a press briefing last month.

Ackerman says the city will continue to follow Dr. Henry's public health orders.

Meanwhile, masks are now mandatory at the Fort St. John medical clinic, while riding the transit bus, and in some local businesses such as Walmart. Middle and high school students, as well as staff, will be required to wear masks on buses and in common areas when classes resume on Sept. 10.

The BC Centre for Disease Control recommends wearing masks in combination with other preventative measures like hand washing and social distancing, as “using only a mask is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

The BCCDC says regular and thorough hand washing with soap and water "is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection because soap actively destroys the surface of the virus.”

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a new respiratory virus first reported in Wuhan, China, on Dec. 31, 2019, and which causes a disease that has been named COVID-19.

The most common symptoms are dry cough, tiredness, and fever, but it can also develop into a severe and sometimes fatal pneumonia. Scientific research continues for an effective treatment and vaccine.

On Monday, Northern Health issued a public health alert saying a religious event held in northern Alberta has contributed to a spike in new COVID-19 cases in northeast B.C.

So far, 17 cases have been linked to the “It Is Time Canada” event in Deadwood, Alta., from July 30 to August 2. Twelve cases are directly related to attendance, while the remainder are believed to be from secondary exposure.

Northern Health says 10 of the cases are active, while seven have recovered. Another 24 people are in self-isolation.

“The majority of these cases are in the Fort St. John area, however the exposure alert applies to all of Northeast BC,” Northern Health said. “Given the location of the event, it is most likely that residents of 

Northeast BC may have been in attendance, or had contact with attendees. Northeast BC residents are strongly encouraged to self-monitor, and self-isolate and seek testing if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.”

It’s the first new cases in the northeast in several weeks — there were no COVID cases reported here July 17 to 30, and none July 24 to Aug. 6.

There are now 117 cases reported in the Northern Health region, up 21 from this time last week.

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.