As world health leaders question whether the recommendation of masks for the general population could curb the spread of COVID-19, British Columbia’s best doctor says she’s considering the same idea – with multiple bets on guard.
There is a growing interest and the adoption of masks in Western countries, since the infection rates in some Asian countries with the use of masks for a long time seem to be slow and with a “flatter curve” than the exponential growth of infections seen in Europe and the United States.
“This is something that we have also considered, knowing what is going on in the world,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health worker, when asked if she would approve cloth or face masks. quality for the general public. “It is not a medical mask, but they can keep your droplets when you are traveling with others. What has not been proven is that they offer you protection. “
Henry and healthcare professionals around the world have prefaced all discussion of the widespread use of masks by reaffirming that N-95 medical grade masks should be reserved for frontline healthcare workers who are constantly exposed to the virus .
She also noted that masks are not a substitute for hand washing and physical distancing.
“If you are going to wear them, it can help reduce the droplets that you throw into the environment and if someone is infected and has mild symptoms or at the beginning of the disease, it can prevent you from throwing away these droplets”, said Henry. “It is not something that has proven itself, but it is something that probably does not hurt. “
WHO plans to change policy
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization, which advises against the use of face masks, responded to growing interest in their effectiveness, which peaked this week as U.S. health officials revealed they were considering recommending them to the general public in the wake of growing research suggesting that asymptomatic carriers may be responsible for a significant number of new infections.
“There is an ongoing debate about the use of masks at the community level,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “WHO continues to collect all the available evidence and continues to assess more widely the potential use of masks to control the transmission of COVID-19 at the community level. It is still a very new virus, and we are learning all the time. “
While the international medical community is considering whether to formally approve the masks, field campaigns to promote their use seem to be fueling the debate.
A short video from a volunteer mask maker in Toronto has been hugely popular in Canada, promoted by Michael Garron Hospital’s # MGH1000masks campaign, although the hospital is very clear: “Hospital health care providers do not will not use these masks. They have certified masks that they must wear. “
“To keep our community healthy and safe, Michael Garron Hospital challenges all dressmakers in the East to collectively create 1,000 masks per week,” said the Hospital Foundation website. “We want everyone in the east to wear a cloth mask when they need to be within six feet of other people, especially the vulnerable and the elderly.”
Good use is not so easy
WHO has set out several considerations for those who choose to wear masks, including how to remove them without spreading around the virus and throwing away disposable masks when wet.
Henry also insisted on paying special attention to the fabric used to make masks at home.
“We have had incidents in the past where people, especially people with lung disease, if you are not using something that is easy to breathe, and you can wash and wash regularly, otherwise you can increase your risk of getting infected or causing additional problems, ”said Henry.
Ghebreyesus added that WHO is collecting contributions from experts and that no one should be surprised if their position on the masks changes in the coming days.
“As the pandemic evolves, the evidence also evolves, as does our advice,” he said.