People wear masks as they leave the COVID-19 testing facility Friday, March 27, 2020 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start: Tam

Health officials had previously not recommended wearing them

Health officials are now saying wearing a non-medical mask can help Canadians not pass along the novel coronavirus, even before they develop symptoms.

On Monday (April 6), Canada’s chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the special advisory committee has come to a consensus that “wearing a non medical mask even if you have no symptoms is an additional measure to protect others around you” in places where it is hard to guarantee physical distancing, such as grocery stores and public transit.

However, Tam noted wearing a mask does not mean Canadians can stop physically distancing, self-isolating or hand-washing measures..

“Wearing a non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it,” she said.

Tam said that non-medical masks could prevent the spread of COVID-19 from infected people who either have no symptoms or have not developed them yet. However, medical masks, such as N95s, must be saved for healthcare workers who need them, she added.

When questioned about why Canada is only now recommending non-medical masks, Tam said “the evidence is actually still quite weak” that the measure could help prevent asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread.

“These are very recent studies that have just come out,” she said.

Tam said Canadians can use materials they have at home such as cotton shirts, sheets and bandanas.

Some young people dying from COVID-19, Tam says

Across Canada, 339,000 tests have revealed at least 15,822 cases of COVID-19, the country’s chief medical officer said. About five per cent of those being tested are coming in positive.

Tam said 293 people have died due to the virus, including some in their 20s. According to the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, the 38 people who have died due to the virus in the province have been between 64 and 94 years old.

“Although older ages are most at risk, no one can predict when critical illness will strike someone at any age,” Tam said.

Canadian officials have been criticized for not testing more people, but Tam said the government is working on making quicker tests available. Currently, the groups being prioritized for outbreaks, cluster detection, healthcare workers and highly vulnerable communities.

READ MORE: As 240K apply for emergency benefit, Trudeau says aid coming for Canadians left behind


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATE: Regional District of Central Kootenay declares state of emergency, issues evacuation orders and alerts

The evacuation alert covers all areas except the Cities of Castelgar and Nelson

Severe storm warning remains in effect for the Kootenays

Two special weather statements have been issued for the West Kootenay

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

No passenger flights at West Kootenay Regional Airport until at least September

This is the third time Air Canada has announced changes to flight operations out of the airport

Powerful thunderstorms called for the West Kootenay this weekend

Environment Canada issued a special weather statement Thursday afternoon.

QUIZ: Test your knowledge of the world of summer sports

In a typical year, there are plenty of summer sporting events and tournaments held across Canada

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in ways that would have… Continue reading

‘We’re sick of it’: Anger over police killings shatters U.S.

Tens of thousands marched to protest the death of George Floyd

Join Kootenay family in virtual walk for Ronald McDonald House

“We always described it as our oasis in the middle of the desert,” Brigitte Ady shares.

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

Most Read