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.
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.
- Shoppers Drug Mart steps away from medical cannabis with business shift
- Baby formula shortage still hitting Canadian parents: ‘Buy whatever is on the shelf’
- WHO now recommends high-risk people get COVID booster 12 months after last dose
- Bird flu’s momentum in Canada worries experts: ‘Potential to become a pandemic’