Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, is now advising that wearing a non-medical mask in the community can be used as an “additional measure”, on top of physical distancing, to stem the spread of COVID-19.
This recommendation, made during her daily news conference on Monday, was made in light of further evidence surrounding transmission patterns that have emerged from studying the pandemic in other countries.
“It is clear that transmission of the virus is happening more often than previously recognized from infected people right before they develop symptoms. This is called pre-symptomatic transmission” said Dr. Tam.
“There is also evidence that some infected people who never develop symptoms are also able to transmit the virus. This is called asymptomatic transmission.”
Health experts do not yet know to what extent these types of transmission are responsible or how big of a role they have played in the spread of this pandemic.
Nevertheless, the special advisory committee on COVID-19 in Canada has agreed that for those who do not have symptoms of the virus, wearing a non-medical mask in situations where physical distancing is difficult, like in public transit or at the grocery store, is an added measure to protect others around them.
The mask prevents or reduces the chances of respiratory droplets coming into contact with another person or landing on surfaces.
Dr. Tam emphasizes that medical masks, like N95 masks, should not be used by members of the community as they need to be reserved for health care workers.
Further, she adds that there is no evidence that wearing non-medical masks offers any protection to the person wearing it.
This “does not mean you can back off the public health measures that we know work to protect you. You must continue to practice physical distancing and good hygiene like frequent hand washing and regularly disinfect high touch surfaces,” said Dr. Tam.
The Chief Public Health Officer’s advice was also uttered by B.C. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, last week.
The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.
Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.
The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19 line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.
As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 1,312,628.
Over 72,600 people have died from the illness and 275,087 have made a full recovery.