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

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

DOH
Council boosts budget slightly

Council gave its official blessing Jan. 19 to increasing taxes to pay… Continue reading

Ski trails
Great skiing in Houston

The trails are in good shape at Morice Mountain Nordic Ski Club.… Continue reading

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

The food hub survey showed that over 61 per cent respondents were looking to expand their business. (Priyanka Ketkar photo/Houston Today)
RDBN’s food hub survey highlights producers’ needs

The project team to set up further discussion sessions with producers this year

“We are very excited and very grateful that in a year that has been challenging for a lot of people, we have been fortunate to be where we are,” said Tim Close, the manager for Tim Hortons, Houston. (Laura Blackwell photo/Houston Today)
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.

Most Read