Canadian health officials have changed their position on mask-use in public settings from “it’s a good idea” to “we recommend it.”
Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam made the official change on Wednesday. Dr. Tam says the Federal government is now officially “recommending” the use of non-medical masks when physical distancing is not possible.
During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic Canadian officials had recommended against the wearing of non-medical face masks. That stance changed about 6 weeks ago when Dr. Tam said wearing a non-medical mask was a good “additional measure” for people to take to protect others.
Today, Dr. Tam said “proper cough etiquette, physical distancing and handwashing measures are a minimum,” during the spring and summer months.
She was asked why wearing non-medical masks only remains a recommendation on a national level instead of being a mandatory measure?
While first noting provincial differences in community spread, Dr. Tam went on to point out that last week Transport Canada made it mandatory for all air passengers to wear non-medical masks or face coverings during travel. Tam used that as an example of something federal officials can do.
Some infectious disease experts have been calling for the widespread use of non-medical masks in public but, the World Health Organization (WHO) does not officially recommend it. The WHO recommends medical masks, respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE) in health care settings.
Some 30 countries like Spain, South Korea, Taiwan and China have all implemented widespread mask usage. New Yorkers were ordered to wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible on April 15.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will wear a non-medical mask on Parliament Hill.
Trudeau told reporters today that he started wearing a mask when he is out of his home and can’t be two metres away from other people.
The Prime Minister also wore one today when he arrived at the House of Commons for an in-person sitting.
Officials in Ontario echo national recommendation
Ontario Premier Doug Ford echoed Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health on wearing a mask when physical distancing is not possible.
“I strongly urge everyone to continue following the public health advice, such as physical distancing,” said Ford.
Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is also recommending that individuals wear a face covering where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transit or in a small grocery store or pharmacy.
The Ministry of Health released specific recommendations today on how to choose, wear and care for appropriate face coverings used in public where physical distancing is not possible.
- Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape;
- Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries;
- Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two; anyone who has trouble breathing; and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.
“Those taking transit or going out who can’t physically distance should wear non-medical grade cloth masks. We need to reserve all of the medical masks to protect our frontline health care workers, first responders and people who are ill,” said Health Minister Christine Elliott.