Will masking still be necessary post-vaccination?
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Canada has not yet issued any guidelines on what restrictions can be lifted
Now that many Canadians are set to receive their first or second doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the coming months, there is hope that things could be returning to normal sooner rather than later.
Those who have gotten vaccinated may be looking forward to not having to wear masks in public and at their workplace.
Recently, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that it is safe vaccinated individuals to stop wearing masks. This statement has since been criticized by many who think it is still too early to make this call.
Despite this, U.S. companies like Walmart and Starbucks are now allowing vaccinated employees to work without masks.
Will masking restrictions be lifted in Canada?
In Canada, governments have not issued any guidelines on what restrictions can be lifted after the majority of the population is vaccinated.
Catherine Bergeron, team lead at health and safety consultancy Peninsula Canada, reminds employers that the federal government has stated that it’s important to remember that vaccination will not fully eliminate COVID-19 and that some public health measures such as distancing and masking will still need to be followed.
Currently, most jurisdictions require face masks to be worn in public and in workplaces, regardless of vaccination status.
“It is not yet clear if this requirement will be lifted in the near future,” said Bergeron. “For this reason, employers must ensure that their workplace continues to adhere with public health guidance on COVID-19. This includes wearing masks, distancing and following correct hygiene and respiratory etiquette.”
Why is it important to continue enforcing rules?
While there is growing evidence that suggests vaccines stop transmission of the virus, many Canadians are still unvaccinated and vulnerable to infection.
“Ensuring that employees continue to wear masks even if they are vaccinated will help curb the spread of COVID-19,” said Bergeron.
Continuing to wear masks in the workplace may also be an important to some in a psychological sense. For example, visitors such as clients and customers might be dissuaded from entering the workplace when seeing unmasked workers. Some unvaccinated workers might also experience stress or anxiety if vaccinated co-workers stop wearing masks.
It is important that employees explain to staff that continuing to wear masks protects those who have not yet gotten the vaccine or will not be able to due to health reasons. Slacking with masking and other health and safety practices should not be tolerated in the workplace.
For the time being, employers must continue to enforce masking in the workplace because this is the law. If this restriction is lifted in the future, employers may consider keeping up this requirement until all staff are vaccinated or unvaccinated staff are accommodated with arrangements that ensure their safety.
Kristina Vassilieva is an HR writer for Peninsula Canada in Toronto.