Tam offers a new tip: wear a non-medical mask when shopping or using public transport

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Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam answers a question at a press conference in Ottawa on April 6, 2020.

Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press

The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada has a piece of advice for Canadians: wear a non-medical face mask to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus when they are in situations where they cannot provide it. appropriate physical distance from strangers.

Dr. Theresa Tam said it would help in scenarios like grocery shopping or public transit.

“Canadians can take this extra step [in] cases where social distancing is difficult to maintain, “she said at noon Monday in Ottawa.

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Dr. Tam offered advice on how to make a non-medical mask, saying that Canadians could use a cotton shirt, for example, combined with rubber bands.

“We are talking about things that are readily available to people,” she said. “Things like cotton shirts, sheets, bandanas. “

“If you can get a cotton fabric like a T-shirt, cut it, fold it and put elastic bands around it – it’s a non-medical facial covering. “

Dr. Tam said this measure is now advised to help reduce transmission by Canadians who are infected with the virus but who are asymptomatic or presymptomatic.

“Our collective scientific knowledge of COVID-19 continues to grow,” she said.

“It is clear that transmission of the virus occurs more often than previously thought from infected people just before they develop symptoms,” she said. “This is called presymptomatic transmission. “

She said the same goes for people who never develop symptoms: the asymptomatic.

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“A non-medical mask can reduce the risk of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with other people or landing[ing] on surfaces, “said Dr. Tam.

The announcement on Monday represents a new decision by medical experts in Canada. Dr. Tam said the special advisory committee – which includes her and the provincial and territorial chief public health officers – has been successful.

“With this emerging information, the Special Advisory Committee on COVID-19 has come to a consensus that wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is one more measure you can take to protect people others around you in situations where physical distance is difficult to maintain. “

Public health officials were urged on Monday to explain why they are only advising these makeshift masks now, weeks after Canada started fighting the pandemic.

Dr. Tam said the evidence for presymptomatic and asymptomatic cases had only accumulated in the past 10 days or so.

“These are very recent studies … so we are trying very quickly to integrate this latest science,” she told reporters.

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“Right before they develop symptoms, [people] have high viral loads, “she said. “And so it tells us that the possibility is there that they can transmit. “

Dr. Tam said public health officials in Canada are still unsure of the extent to which the transmission of presymptomatic or asymptomatic cases is behind this epidemic.

The Chief Public Health Officer has stressed that this new advice does not provide better protection for the user of the mask, but is recommended to protect others.

She said that this advice is a “permissive statement” offered to help reduce transmission and is not an official recommendation.

The Chief Public Health Officer said Monday morning that there were 15,822 cases of COVID-19 in Canada and 293 deaths.

She said that “of most concern” were the new outbreaks in hospitals and long-term care facilities in several provinces.

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“In addition, we hear about young people hospitalized for COVID-19 and people as young as their twenties dying from the disease,” she said.

Dr. Tam urged Canadians not to turn to medical masks for this preventive measure recommended on Monday.

More than 339,000 people in Canada have been tested to date and about 5% have been confirmed positive, she said on Monday.

The federal government has met with US officials after learning that a shipment of millions of N95 masks destined for Ontario had been detained at the Canada-US border, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The Canadian Press

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