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

Non-venomous ball python missing in Vic West

Snake was reported missing to Victoria police Tuesday morning

Multiple Victoria officers injured during violent incidents, including mental health calls over long weekend

Police deploy pepper spray, conducted energy weapon while arresting suspect

Saanich police search for potential victims, witnesses after series of unprovoked assaults

Police are looking for more information about two incidents from June 12

Crews respond to medical incident on West Saanich Road

Incident appears to be cleared, witnesses say

Pay cuts, seating charts, COVID screening: How one Sidney venue is bringing back concerts

A growing number of bars and restaurants are welcoming back musicians under COVID-19 precautions

B.C. records 146 new COVID-19 cases through long weekend

More that 28 people tested positive for the virus each day since Friday

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

B.C. to allow customers to buy cannabis online for in-store pickup at private shops

Age verification will still be required inside the store

30% of British Columbians would ‘wait and see’ before taking COVID vaccine: poll

Some are concerned about side effects, while others don’t think the virus is a big deal

Don’t leave your hand sanitizer in the sun and other tips to stay COVID safe this summer

Being mindful of staying outside and keeping hand sanitizer, sunscreen out of the sun recommended

What exactly is ‘old growth’ B.C. forest, and how much is protected?

Forests minister Doug Donaldson doesn’t support ‘moratorium’

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Most Read