COVID-19: New Brunswickers mask up against Omicron

Click to play video: 'New Brunswickers talk masking up against Omicron'
New Brunswickers talk masking up against Omicron
WATCH: With expert guidance leaning toward N95 masks, New Brunswickers say they’re opting for them – if they can find them. Travis Fortnum reports. – Dec 20, 2021

With the Omicron variant of COVID-19 spreading fast, some experts are urging Canadians to opt for an N95 mask instead of the cloth or surgical masks we’ve come to rely on.

“They’re considered the gold standard in medical, aside from a full isolation suit,” epidemiologist Susanne Gulliver says.

“An N95 filters out 95 per cent of particulate that could come through.”

Read more: What masks work best against Omicron? Experts are divided, but most say ditch cloth masks

She says single or even layered masks just don’t seem to protect enough against Omicron, though we’re learning more about the variant, other strains and COVID-19 as a whole each day.

That, she says, is why expert advice changes.

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“The virus keeps changing,” Gulliver says.

“If that virus would just stay put and stop evolving and changing, then guidance wouldn’t change.”

Many New Brunswickers tell Global News they’ve switched to using the “gold standard” N95 daily.

“For about six weeks or so I’ve been wearing Canadian-made CAN95s,” says Kathleen Gadd of Miramachi.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: WHO warns of dismissing the Omicron variant as being ‘mild’, calls for stronger measures'
COVID-19: WHO warns of dismissing the Omicron variant as being ‘mild’, calls for stronger measures

She made the switch for her kids, too, though not having a cloth mask of their favourite superhero made the change a bit of a harder sell.

“It was hard for them to give these up because they’re a lot more fun,” Gadd says holding up a pink Wonder Woman mask, “but I did talk them into it.”

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She says she has noticed N95s are harder to come by now, with people snapping them up or selling them at higher price points.

This has advocates raising a red flag over accessibility.

Read more: Rapid COVID-19 tests: When to take one, and what to do if it’s positive

“Anything you have to buy privately is going to have cost as a barrier,” says Martha Paynter, a registered nurse, PhD candidate at Dalhousie and medical liaison for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“For some people, even if a mask is just a couple of dollars, that’s money they simply don’t have.”

Paynter says she hopes to see government step up and find distribution options similar to the way rapid test kits have been given out.

Gulliver says, if you’re unable to get the gold standard for now, whatever mask you have is better than none.

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