Wearing masks in public is no longer required by public health — but that could change by the fall.
Coronavirus hospitalizations continue to climb in B.C., rising 35 per cent to 369 Thursday (July 7), up from 273 last week. This is the highest count since June 2, when there were 421 such patients in B.C. hospitals.
Experts warn the third wave of Omicron infections could peak by August, as this is the first uptick in the number of hospitalizations since May 12.
In a COVID-19 press briefing Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters that B.C. was able to lift restrictions earlier this year as people were getting vaccinated in "record numbers."
When asked directly if the government will re-implement public health measures, Dix emphasized that people need to get up to date with their vaccinations to curb the spread of the virus.
People also have a personal responsibility when they are in public spaces, the health minister added, noting that he still wears a mask when he is grocery shopping.
"People don't need me to tell them to wear a mask to stay safer," he said. "If you're visiting with a large number of people you don't know, you can wear a mask."
B.C.'s paid sick leave also allows employees to stay home when they experience flu-like symptoms, Dix said.
"So if you're sick, stay home. And that's not just true, by the way, of COVID-19."
Public health advice has changed several times and will continue to "adapt to the circumstances," he added. "Not for me to speculate what that might be in the future."
Dr. Martin Lavoie, B.C.'s acting provincial health officer, echoed those words, remarking that people who have received a full course of vaccinations should continue to follow public health safety advice, such as wearing a mask in indoor spaces, washing their hands, and staying home if they are sick.
"If we need to reinstate measures, we will keep our eyes on that," he said, adding that "we are not there yet."
B.C. plans to widen eligibility for second booster shots, or fourth doses of vaccine, this fall, although specific details on exactly when different age groups will be eligible were not revealed.
Dix said that those 12 and older who have had third doses of the vaccine will be eligible for fourth doses once they have gone 182 days after their third dose. The timeline for different age groups is expected to be between September and December.
With files from Glen Korstrom.