Courtenay Mayor Bob Wells says now’s the time to double down on COVID-19 safety measures.

Wells spoke out on the heels of Saturday’s anti-mask demonstration at the Driftwood Mall.

Wells says that while everyone has the right to their opinion, he doesn’t have a lot of time for the anti-mask movement.

“I don’t want to give it much oxygen,” he said. “People are allowed to have their own opinions but right now, as Mayor of Courtenay my first priority is the health and safety of my citizens and that means following the medical health officer’s requirements, which I don’t think are onerous.”

Wells pointed to the “swiss cheese” model of protection against the novel coronavirus, including wearing a mask, practising physical distancing, washing your hands, and limiting contact with anyone outside your bubble.

“They aren’t individually, going to be magic bullets but if you put them all together, it really does help protect everybody, especially if you’re not going out,” he said.

“But in the same breath, as chair of the economic recovery task force, we’re really focused on making sure that we’re able do as much as we can for the economy locally, and frankly something like this (anti-mask demonstrations) doesn’t fit within my priorities but again, I don’t want to infringe upon those that want to demonstrate peacefully.”

Wells added that first and foremost one of the things that we have in a democracy is the right to peacefully demonstrate.

“So that is something I wouldn’t want to see infringed upon as long as all the rules are being followed,” he said.

Wells owns My Tech Guys in the Comox Valley and says from his experience, people are following the new normal of wearing masks indoors.

“When you start asking how individual customers are reacting to it, I would say the vast majority are in full support of it,” he said. “You might have the odd person, but most businesses now, it’s just a requirement if you want to come in, you have to wear a mask. It’s about not just protecting yourself, it’s protecting others.”

He said one of their top priorities is the safety of their employees, “so they can provide the services to customers.”

“We closed down back on Friday the 13th in March, and because we do provide services to medical establishments, we quickly went to wearing masks and quickly went to hand sanitizer,” Wells said.

Wells said a vaccine is still a ways away so we have to double down to protect ourselves, especially during the flu months.

“We’ve already seen that with the numbers rising so we have to do what we can to flatten the curve,” he added. “We’ve done it once before so I know that we can do it but we will have to come together as a community to make it happen.”