According to Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, masks – both medical and non-medical – can be effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19.
People with no symptoms can wear non-medical masks in public as an “extra measure” to protect others, Tam said at a press conference on Monday.
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It is increasingly evident that people infected with the virus are able to transmit it before they develop symptoms, she said.
It is also possible that people who have the virus but never develop symptoms are also able to transmit the virus.
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“Wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distance is difficult to maintain, such as when traveling common or maybe at the grocery store, ”says Tam.
Below, the experts answer your most pressing questions about masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Types of masks
There are two types of medical grade masks.
The first is a surgical mask, which is a disposable, loose mask that covers your nose, mouth and chin.
The second is an N95 respirator, which is a well-fitting face mask that can filter the particles of air breathed through it, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
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A “non-medical mask”, according to Tam, is a mask made at home with material from cotton shirts, sheets or bandanas, and connected to his ears by elastic bands or hair ties.
“A non-medical mask can reduce the risk of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others or landing on surfaces. “
Wearing a non-medical mask in the community, however, “has not been proven to protect the person wearing it,” Tam reiterated.
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At a press conference on Tuesday, Tam and the Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Patty Hajdu, said they would wear non-medical masks in situations where physical removal is impossible.
“I want to protect others, recognizing that … [masks are] an extra layer to protect the spread of others, “said Tam.
Hajdu said she “would not hesitate to wear [one]But she would be sure to follow Tam’s instructions on how to do it right.
How to wear a mask properly
The only way masks work is if they cover both your mouth and your nose, said Dr. Jeff Kwong, infectious disease epidemiologist and professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. .
This applies to medical masks (surgical masks and N95 masks) as well as to non-medical masks made at home.
“What I find a little funny … is when you go out and see people wearing the mask around their neck, near their chin. It covers the mouth but not the nose, ”said Kwong.
“You don’t fully benefit from wearing a mask. “
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It was a concern raised by Hajdu on Tuesday.
“One of the risks of wearing a [non-medical] the mask is [wearing] correctly, “said Hajdu.
“For people who haven’t worn it before, it’s not a comfortable experience and you will have to be aware of the tendency to want to adjust it. “
While wearing a mask, public health officials say it is essential not to touch your face. This can counteract all the benefits of the mask.
There is very little data on the effectiveness of homemade masks. Kwong predicts that they are probably not as effective as medical masks, “But I still think that some protection is even better than no protection,” he said.
Masks do not replace physical distance, hand hygiene
The masks (medical and non-medical) do not replace the public health measures already in place to help curb the spread of COVID-19, Tam said on Monday.
“You should continue to practice physical remoteness and good hygiene by washing your hands frequently and disinfecting very sensitive surfaces regularly,” she said.
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The question of whether masks can prevent the spread of COVID-19 has been debated among Canadians in recent months.
According to infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch, nothing is as effective as staying at home as much as possible. If you have to get out, physical distance and good hand hygiene are your next strongest lines of defense.
However, experts believe that there are circumstances in which people can unknowingly transmit the virus – namely people who have only mild symptoms who do not seek medical help, as well as people who are still a few days of developing symptoms.
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In these situations, a mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“If you’re sick and putting on a mask, it can certainly help prevent the spread of an infection,” said Bogoch. “Dr. Tam has been saying this since January. “
This is especially true when physical distance is almost impossible – such as when you are at the grocery store.
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“If you want to wear a cloth mask in a community setting where you are unable to physically distance yourself or practice hand hygiene, it can help prevent the spread of the infection.” others, “said Bogoch.
He recalls that masks do not replace physical distancing and hand hygiene.
“It is extremely important to tell the whole story,” said Bogoch of the mask debate in Canada. He is concerned that Canadians will wear homemade masks and develop a false sense of security.
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“We hear anecdotal evidence that people wear masks and do not practice physical distance,” he said.
It is also important to remember that Canada suffers from a shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers on the front lines of the pandemic.
For this reason, Kwan says that Canadians should not buy new masks. If you have them at home, he recommends donating them to your local health facility.
– With files from Beatrice Britneff of Global News
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you should know:
Health authorities warn against all international travel. Return travelers are legally required to self-isolate for 14 days, starting March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent the spread of the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to provide self-isolation for people returning to the region.
Symptoms may include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing – very similar to a cold or the flu. Some people may develop a more serious illness. Those most at risk are the elderly and people with serious chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend washing your hands frequently and coughing up your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying at home as much as possible, and keeping two meters away from others if you go out.
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