Quebec Standard

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Updated COVID-19 mask guidance emphasises on use of medical masks and respirators over cotton masks

Many doctors and scientists are advising Canadians not only to avoid being casual about wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 but also to examine whether that cloth mask is keeping you and others as safe as possible in the cold weather.

“Non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, but on the other hand, medical masks and respirators give better protection,” according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s (PHAC) COVID-19 mask information webpage, which was updated on November 12.

Respirators (such as N-95 and KN-95 masks) are the most protective masks and were traditionally mainly suggested for healthcare professionals who came into direct contact with infectious patients. Respirators must pass a “fit test” in high-risk settings.

“A respirator used in the community does not need to have been formally fit tested as is required in some professional contexts,” PHAC’s guidance now adds, in reference to more general use.

The agency stated on PHAC changing its recommendations that “Research on SARS-CoV-2 virus variants of concern, increased understanding of the impact of vaccines and immunity in the population, and new data available on mask types and effectiveness have all been considered.”

This shift in messaging, according to many doctors, scientists, and engineers, reflects a growing body of evidence that COVID-19 is primarily spread through aerosols (tiny particles that can hang in the air), rather than respiratory droplets (larger particles) transmitted through close contact with an infected person. As a result, they argue, it’s critical to rethink the masks we’re using.

Dr Brooks Fallis, a critical care physician at the Toronto-area William Osler Health System, said, “This indicates a movement in Canada toward an understanding of how crucial aerosol, airborne-based transmission is in the transmission of this virus.”

Because aerosol particles are tiny and can collect in the air over time, the best-performing masks are essential if you’ll be indoors with other people for an extended period of time, according to Fallis.

Source: CBC News

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