Health experts say masks are useless in the face of COVID-19, washing your hands will do much more

Through, frequent hand scrubbing a far more effective defense

The Barrie 360 news team went for an outing the other day to locate a medical mask to be used as a prop in a photoshoot.

We had to go to five stores to find one.

Shortages of medical masks have been reported around the world, while the retail giant Amazon has even begun cracking down on price gouging by its vendors. The most in-demand mask: an N-95 mask.

Royal Victoria Hospital’s Director of Safety, Security, and Occupational Health Cathy Clark says masks like the N-95 wouldn’t even protect you from COVID-19 anyway. “Where those masks are really required is in a hospital setting,” Clark told Barrie 360, “where we are dealing with patients with an airborne illness. Something like measles, tuberculosis, varicella (chickenpox), those are things that are spread really readily person-to-person. But coronavirus we know is predominantly a droplet precaution.”

“One N-95 mask is not exactly like the other, and they have to be specially fit-tested,” added Clark, “in fact, we have some fairly sophisticated fit-testing equipment for our healthcare workers that makes sure they’re getting a mask that seals tightly to their face and prevents anything from getting in.”

A much more effective defense against COVID-19 can likely be found in your bathroom. “We say it a million times to the point where people think we’re repeating ourselves needlessly, but the number one thing is to actually wash them thoroughly and frequently throughout the day.” She says scrubbing for a good 20 seconds, getting all the nooks and crannies and under jewelry, is most effective.

Related: COVID-19… what to watch for, when to go to the hospital

Reports of a shortage among the public aren’t affecting medical professionals however, they’re well-stocked. “In terms of the healthcare sector right now, there isn’t a shortage of face masks,” said Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Colin Lee, “I think there are adequate supplies at our hospitals as well as the clinics.”

Aside from being well-stocked with masks, Dr. Lee indicates plenty of other preparations are being made at hospitals locally and across the country. “It is still unknown how many people are going to get ill,” said Dr.Lee, “and if there are a lot of people ill, will it overwhelm our healthcare system? But we are making preparations to deal with that, and we have dealt with that before. I agree that there could be some tough weeks, but we’ll come out of it at the end.”