A couple wearing a protective masks ride a near empty subway train in Montreal, on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. Proper physical distancing in public transportation is a concern as governments prepare to start easing restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Canada’s top doctors defend mask advice as country tops 50,000 COVID-19 cases

Non-medical masks can prevent spread of virus when physical distancing is not possible, officials say

Canada’s chief medical officers defended their agency’s record on non-medical masks as the country’s COVID-19 cases topped 50,000.

Dr. Theresa Tam endorsed the optional wearing of non-medical masks to stop the virus’s spread on April 6, after questions began to pour in about their usefulness in slowing the spread of COVID-19. As of Wednesday (April 29) morning, there were 51,220 confirmed cases and 2,984 deaths in Canada.

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Speaking Wednesday, Tam said officials were continually re-evaluating data on masks and that a key concern was the availability of medical ones for health-care workers.

“We do want to make sure medical masks are reserved for our health-care workers,” Tam said.

“We also want to be absolutely certain that the public knows that all the other measures we recommended still need to be observed.”

Those measures include increased hand-washing, staying home when sick and maintaining a two-metre physical distance from non-household members.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr. Howard Njoo said the initial messaging about face masks was based on influenza research.

“With this virus we’re learning it’s not exactly like influenza. It’s an infection and a virus that has its own unique qualities and aspects,” Njoo said.

Tam said officials changed their messaging when more data about pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic cases emerged.

“At that point in time we felt that the public can consider wearing a homemade mask or facial covering when they can’t maintain that physical distancing.”

Federal officials still recommend masks to protect others by stopping droplets flying from the wearer’s mouth and nose, not to protect the person donning the mask.

South of the border, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control told Americans to wear masks in public on April 3, three days before Canadian health officials said they could be an additional measure to slow the virus’s spread.

In Canada, masks have been mandatory for domestic flights since April 20. In B.C., the CDC has said “wearing a cloth mask is a matter of personal choice.” The agency recommends sick people “should” wear masks and that they are an “appropriate part of infection prevention and control” if you have COVID-19 symptoms or are caring for a person with symptoms.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after outbreak at Quesnel shelter

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

Commercial salmon fisheries delayed for Bella Coola area

DFO notice says Area C gill net fisheries in Area 8 have been delayed until June 15

Pacific Coastal won’t open until community is ready

The company has suspended operations until further notice

VIDEO: Injured bald eagle rescued in B.C. First Nations community

Bird suspected injured in fight, whisked off to Coquitlam rehab

Toronto Raptors’ Ujiri says conversations about racism can no longer be avoided

Thousands have protested Floyd’s death and repeated police killings of black men across the United States

B.C.’s Central Kootenay region declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

‘I’m afraid’: Witnesses of wolf attack on senior near Prince Rupert worried about safety

Frank Russ shows where the unprovoked wolf attacked his father

Protesters prepare to rally against racism in front of Vancouver Art Gallery

Rally is in response to the deaths of black Americans and a Toronto woman

Protesters rally against anti-black, Indigenous racism in Toronto

Police estimated the crowd to be between 3,500 and 4,000 and said there was no violence

Feds earmark $1.5M to support recovery of B.C., Indigenous tourism

B.C. money will be split between Vancouver Island and Indigenous tourism

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Most Read