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

Long wait to reopen is over for Sidney gym

Owner of Sidney’s Anytime Fitness expects safety measures to be in place for some time

Langford Fire calm mother and daughter after being trapped in elevator

Three-year-old girl given stuffed animal to calm nerves

‘Seven baths in two days’: Homeless adjusting to life in hotels

Victoria passes motion to allow camping 24-7 in parks until June 25

Capital Regional District prepares to reopen regional campgrounds

Camping will look different at Island View, Sooke Potholes, Jordan River sites

Suspect taken into custody after allegedly attempting to steal a dinghy in Sidney

The incident happened Wednesday morning near Beacon Wharf

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

POLL: Do you agree with the provincial government’s decision to increase the minimum wage?

B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will be getting a few more dollars to try… Continue reading

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read