Non-medical masks will still be required in courtrooms unless a judge deems otherwise, even though they are no longer mandatory in other public areas since B.C. entered the third phase of its restart plan July 1.
The mandate will be reviewed again in September — sooner if the COVID-19 situation changes in the province, according to the Provincial Court of B.C.
“Many people who attend our courthouses don’t choose to be there — they’re compelled to attend by subpoena or other court processes,” said an online post from the court on Tuesday. “So, people must have confidence that the courts are safe and accessible.”
Masks are recommended but not mandatory in common areas of courthouses, such as hallways and elevators, according to the court.
Other COVID health and safety measures could be required depending on the circumstances of a particular proceeding, said the court.
All other existing infection prevention and exposure control measures will remain in place, it said, including health screenings at courthouse entrances and capacity limits for courtrooms.
Any concerns from counsel, parties or witnesses regarding the use of face masks or face coverings in the courtroom should be raised with the court for consideration by the presiding judicial officer, said the posting.
In-person provincial court trials have taken place since last summer with no COVID closures at B.C.’s courthouses.
Since the pandemic began, B.C. courthouses have installed plexiglass barriers, handwash stations and hand sanitizers, and implemented health screening by sheriffs for people attending the courthouse, while court registries have been accepting some filings through Court Services Online, mail, email or fax, and virtual hearings have been used for some proceedings.