TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is now recommending those at risk of higher exposure and more severe disease outcomes from COVID-19 wear a medical face mask
The guidance, which was quietly updated Nov. 12, advises that these individuals “could also consider using a respirator” in certain situations.
The PHAC is now advising medical masks be worn by:
- anyone who has tested positive for or has symptoms of COVID-19
- people caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
- people who live in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
- people who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19
- people who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation
Previous guidance advised Canadians at higher risk of exposure and severe disease “wear a well-fitting, well-constructed non-medical mask that includes a filter layer” or “consider wearing a well-fitting medical mask if one is available.”
CTVNews.ca has reached out to the PHAC for comment, but did not hear back before the time of publication.
When worn properly, studies have shown that face masks can help contain respiratory particles, and prevent or reduce the amount of infectious respiratory particles a person inhales.
The PHAC advises Canadians to continue practising all public health measures recommended by local public health authorities, including individual measures like wearing a mask.
“When layered with other recommended public health measures, a well-constructed, well-fitting and properly worn mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the PHAC notes in its mask guidance online.
The change came after Canada’s chief public health officer advised Canadians during a press conference earlier Friday to opt for a mask that offers the best quality and fit.
“The same as vaccination provides us with an essential base layer of immune readiness protection, masks are an essential top layer against virus inhalation and spread between people,” Dr. Theresa Tam said.
“Heading into the winter, there are many reasons to ensure that our top or outer barrier layer of protection is of the best quality and fit possible. With the highly contagious Delta variant continuing to predominate, the risk for surges and disease activity is likely to increase with more time spent indoors, particularly where there are pockets of low vaccine coverage.”
Tam warned of slight “turbulence” amid rising new COVID-19 cases across much of the country. Although severe illness remains stable, she said infections need to be kept down in order to prevent increases, along with other protectionary measures such as proper hand hygiene and avoiding crowds.
While medical and fabric masks range in effectiveness, Dr. Ronald St. John, former director-general of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, told CTV News Channel on Friday it is important that any mask fits properly to the face without any gaps.
“Make sure the little metal band is pressed around your nose and it’s tucked under your chin, including covering your facial hair and so forth. That’s going to be a major deterrent for transmission,” he said.
With files from CTVNews.ca’s Michael Lee
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