Costco Canada will soon be making face shields a mandatory requirement to enter its stores for those who cannot wear masks due to medical reasons – marking one of the first chains in B.C. to add this stipulation to mask policies.
According to signage posted in at least two warehouse locations – in Coquitlam and in Surrey – the new policy will take effect on Nov. 16, and follows similar rules implemented in locations across the border last week.
Starting Nov. 16, face masks will be mandatory for those who can wear them, with the exemption of children under the age of two. Prior to this announcement, masks were recommended but not required in Costco stores.
“If a member has a medical condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, they must wear a face shield at Costco,” CEO Craig Jelinek said in a statement on Nov. 10.
“This updated policy may seem inconvenient to some; however, we believe the added safety is worth any inconvenience. Our goal is to continue to provide a safe shopping environment for our members and guests, and to provide a safe work environment for our employees.”
There are a number of reasons a person may not be able to wear a non-medical face covering or mask, including those with disabilities. This includes those who are deaf or hard of hearing, those who are blind or who have low vision, and those who need respiratory apparatus to help them breath.
In B.C., masks are not mandatory under provincial health guidelines but are encouraged when indoors as a way to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Canada’s top doctor, Dr. Theresa Tam, recommends close-fitting non-medical masks but currently has not issued specified recommendations on face shields.
Since May, many large grocery chains and other stores have implemented mandatory non-medical mask rules for shoppers.
Most people who cannot wear a mask have received doctors’ notes to indicate their exemption, which they can show if questioned.
Earlier this month, the BC Human Rights Commissioner released guidelines on how employers, landlords and service providers should follow human rights codes when creating mask policies.
“Following public health guidance, including wearing a mask in many circumstances, is an important way to protect the most marginalized and medically vulnerable people among us,” Commissioner Kasari Govender said.
“But when we require people to wear masks, it’s important to ensure that those who cannot wear them do not face automatic negative consequences like losing their job or being denied key services.”
Disability Alliance BC board chair, Pam Horton, told Black Press Media that face shields are not always a remedy for those who cannot wear non-medical masks.
Horton, who uses a power wheelchair, said that while she can use a non-medical mask for short periods of time she cannot put the mask on without help from a caregiver or friend. A face shield would pose similar issues.
For those who use a sip and puff wheelchair, which operates with the use of a straw or tube, non-medical masks are not an option.
“Just as each person’s disability is unique to them, mask usage is unique to each person,” Horton said.
Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.