B.C.’s provincial health officer says non-medical masks are fine to wear, but “not an alternative to the things we know work” to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing and washing hands.
Dr. Bonnie Henry made the comments Monday after Dr. Theresa Tam, the country’s chief medical health officer, said Canadians who aren’t showing symptoms of the virus can wear the masks as “an additional measure” to protect others during the pandemic.
Tam said that there was growing evidence that people can transmit the virus before they realize they have it.
But Henry said while wearing a mask may prevent someone from giving COVID-19 to others, masks will not stop the wearer from contracting the disease.
COVID-19 is most commonly transmitted when an infected person spreads virus-laden droplets by coughing or sneezing.
Fabric masks can catch some of those droplets, Henry said.
“It’s not going to protect you from getting infected with this virus. But for short term, it is a similar analogy to coughing into your sleeve or coughing into a tissue,” she said.
“It is not a recommendation, it is a permissive use, if you will.”
Both Henry and Tam stressed that people wearing non-medical masks must still avoid touching their faces, must practice social and physical distancing, and must continue to frequently wash their hands.
The federal government has also published a list of considerations for people who want to wear a non-medical mask.
The B.C. Centre For Disease Control has been recommending masks for people who are ill since at least January, but the agency had warned that they may be “less effective when the wearer is not sick themselves.
“Masks may give a person a false sense of security & are likely to increase the number of times a person will touch their own face — to adjust the mask, etc,” said the agency in a January update.
Henry added that medical-grade masks and respirators must be reserved for front-line health-care workers who are at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.
On Friday, U.S. officials announced new federal guidelines recommending that citizens cover their face when outside their homes to help slow the spread of the virus.
The World Health Organization said Monday it was “evaluating” the use of medical and non-medical masks.
“For example, countries could consider using masks in communities where other measures such as cleaning hands and physical distancing are harder to achieve because of lack of water or cramped living conditions,” WHO director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.View link »