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Canada’s New Coronavirus Face Mask Rules: What You Need To Know - HuffPost Canada
When should you wear a mask? Is it mandatory? And what happens if you don’t?
The recommendations around wearing face masks in Canada to prevent the spread of COVID-19 have changed, but they’re still not mandatory. On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced he will start wearing a mask in public when he can’t physically distance from others, including to his appearances at parliament, to coincide with new recommendations from chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam. Wearing non-medical face coverings in public in Canada was no longer simply suggested, Tam said, but recommended to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. “That is my personal choice. That is aligned, I think, with what public health is recommending,” Trudeau said. “I think we all need to adjust to what works in our circumstances and keep safety at the forefront of what we are doing.” So what do you need to know about this new “personal choice” public health is recommending? And how will it impact you? What changed in Canada’s stance on mask-wearing? Wednesday’s announcement is a shifting of the language around the federal government’s stance on mask-wearing. Tam called her previous language on the matter “permissive,” while Wednesday’s update is a “specific recommendation.” “Where COVID-19 activity is occurring, use of non-medical masks or face coverings is recommended as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain,” Tam said. “And staying home when sick is a must, always and everywhere.” I think we all need to adjust to what works in our circumstances and keep safety at the forefront of what we are doing.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Previously, Tam’s advice has shifted with scientific opinion on mask-wearing. Early on, officials recommended masks for people showing symptoms who needed to go out. But since further research has been done on asymptomatic transmission — people with no symptoms passing the virus on — the stance shifted to be more firm over time. “We need to flexibly change our measures as we get more information,” Tam said. The World Health Organization still does not formally recommend everyone wear masks and suggests evidence is inconclusive as to whether asymptomatic people need to wear them. Do I have to wear a mask all the time now? Despite the more firm language, public mask-wearing is still a recommendation, not compulsory like it is in some countries, such as Spain. So no, you don’t have to do anything. None of these guidelines are currently codified into federal or provincial law, or even the public health orders issued by the provinces. This is not like the rules introduced last month by Transport Canada that all air passengers must wear face coverings. Tam said individual provinces and municipalities could mandate mask-wearing by public health order, but that will be up to them. Some businesses may choose not to let customers enter without wearing a mask, however, so be aware when you are out and about. What type of masks do officials recommend? As with previous guidance, the government recommends everyday people wear cloth or other types of non-medical masks to ensure supply of personal protective equipment for front-line health care workers. You don’t need to go pick up an N95 mask just to ride the bus. A simple cloth mask or homemade one will do just fine. Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw released a video Wednesday explaining what types of masks to wear, and how best to wear them. Wearing a non-medical face mask can help protect those around you when physical distancing isn't possible. We have a new video on how to choose a non-medical face mask that is right for you. Watch it online at: https://t.co/noIPpgQhqM — Dr. Deena Hinshaw (@CMOH_Alberta) May 20, 2020 And here are our tips on how to wear a face mask. (Hint: don’t touch your face!) And if you want to make your own mask, you can do that too! Or, if you aren’t feeling as crafty, there are lots of different styles available for sale in Canada. Remind me again why a mask is a good idea? Research shows that face coverings are effective at preventing the transmission of respiratory droplets, which spread viruses like the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. They’re most useful in protecting the people around you from your droplets. WATCH: How much protection do face masks offer? Story continues below. When you breathe out, the mask traps the droplets and prevents them from getting to other people. When should I wear a mask? Tam stressed that these guidelines largely apply to areas of Canada with community transmission and specifically locations where you can’t maintain social distancing. Examples include the grocery store, where aisles are tightly packed, or public transit like subways and buses. You don’t need to wear a mask if you won’t be in a situation where you could come within six feet of someone else. But if there’s a chance of it, officials say it’s better safe than sorry to wear a mask. But officials stress that mask-wearing is not a substitute for physical distancing and good hygiene. Maintaining at least a two-metre distance from other people, washing your hands and staying home when sick are the best things you can do. What are the provinces saying? Ontario Minister of Transportation Caroline Mulroney reiterated the recommendation, and formally recommended mask-wearing for all public transit riders in the province. “As more people start taking transit again, these public health measures will help keep people safe,” Mulroney said Wednesday. The province is recommending “anyone travelling on public transit wear a face covering,” with exceptions for children under two-years-old, anyone who has trouble breathing, and anyone who would have trouble removing one. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that while it’s not mandated, he chooses to wear a mask. “Any time I go out in public I put a mask on. I think it’s the right thing to do,” Ford said. While he didn’t offer any specific recommendations of his own, on Wednesday, B.C. Premier John Horgan said he would follow the federal recommendations. “Well I’ll certainly be wearing a mask if I can’t physically distance and I encourage all other British Columbians to do the same thing,” he said during an address to the province. B.C. has seen a sharp flattening of the infection curve, with only two new cases of COVID-19 confirmed Tuesday. Also on HuffPost:
A Second Wave Of Coronavirus In Canada: What You Need To Know - HuffPost Canada
Canada could face a surge of new cases of COVID-19 later this year.
When will the coronavirus outbreak be over in Canada? It will likely not truly be over until after there is a second wave of infections. Public health and government officials are well aware of a recent new spike of cases in countries like China and South Korea, and see it as proof that initially flattening the curve of COVID-19 does not mean the crisis is over. Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam says Canadians should prepare for a “new normal” that will continue even after the current first wave is contained. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned last week that lifting restrictions too quickly could send Canada “back into confinement” if a second wave hits. “We are still in the emergency phase … the vast majority of Canadians continue to need to be very careful,” he said. It’s a sentiment echoed by provincial public health officials too — B.C. chief public health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said this week that there’s “very much a potential of a surge to come in the fall.” So what does a second wave look like? And what is Canada doing to prevent it? What is a second wave? Remember that curve that we’re all trying to flatten? That refers to the growth of new COVID-19 cases day over day. The so-called second wave would be another increase or spike of cases after the initial wave of infections stabilized. An epidemic curve can have multiple severe waves or spikes in case rates before it’s stabilized with a treatment or vaccine. What’s an example of the second wave? The Spanish flu pandemic from 1918 could hold the key to how we think about a possible second wave of COVID-19. The Spanish flu was responsible for the deaths of at least 50 million people worldwide, including 55,000 in Canada. While it first hit in the spring of 1918, the second wave in the fall that same year was actually far deadlier than the initial outbreak. Much like right now with COVID-19, governments around the world back then, particularly in the U.S., implemented aggressive physical distancing measures to combat the spread of the virus. Many of the restrictions that seem all too familiar now — bans on mass gatherings, encouragement to wear face covers — were present in 1918, too. And research has shown that the timing of lifting those restrictions was directly tied to the impact of the virus. Cities in the U.S. that kept restrictions in place longer faced fewer deaths in the second wave. The research, published in 2007 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, found that second waves only occurred once a jurisdiction lifted restrictions. “These findings support the hypothesis that rapid implementation of multiple NPIs (non-pharmaceutical interventions) can significantly reduce influenza transmission, but that viral spread will be renewed upon relaxation of such measures,” the authors wrote. The Spanish flu actually also had a third wave as well, and while it was more deadly than the first, it didn’t compare to the mortality of the second. There was even a fourth wave of the virus, consisting of isolated outbreaks in places like New York City. Which countries are experiencing a second wave right now? Many countries that experienced sharp initial spikes in COVID-19 case rates, then appeared to get them under control are once again seeing an uptick in new infections. Singapore went from having fewer than 2,000 cases at the beginning of April to now more than 23,000. The city-state had been able to contain the initial wave of the virus in February and early March with strict quarantine measures and contact tracing, as well as widespread testing. However, cases started to spike again in April after undetected outbreaks in the area’s migrant worker population began to spiral as restrictions were lifted. Singapore is once again implementing firm quarantines and contact tracing to attempt to contain the second wave. WATCH: Singapore’s migrant workers form most of its virus cases. Story continues below. China is rapidly expanding testing and lockdown once again in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began back in December. Six residents tested positive for the virus over the weekend, ending a 35-day streak without new cases there. The Chinese government has said they will test every citizen in Wuhan in the coming days. A lockdown has also been imposed in the nearby city of Shulan, which reported multiple new cases this week. One Sunday, South Korean president Moon Jae-In said “it’s not over until it’s over,” as a new cluster of cases emerged in the country. South Korea was heralded as one of the first countries to get the initial wave of the virus under control and start to lift restrictions. But there are success stories. Hong Kong is being heralded as the gold standard for preventing a second wave so far, but it comes with aggressive quarantine procedures. The territory is only allowing residents back in, and they are subject to testing upon arrival and throughout a strictly monitored 14-day quarantine that involves a phone app that connects to an electronic bracelet to track their movements. How is Canada preparing for a second wave? Experts say the best way to prevent a second wave of the virus is not to lift restrictions at all. However, that’s not realistic. Public health officials in Canada say they are preparing for life with fluctuating levels of the virus for several years to come. A second wave of the virus this fall is of particular concern. “This virus is going to be with us for some time. It will not be eradicated from the world in months,” Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said back in March. “We will need to be prepared for another wave, potentially.” That means designing the lifting of public health orders and restrictions in such a way that they can quickly be reimplemented if cases spike again. Contact tracing and testing will be key to fending off a second wave as well as being able to identify new cases quickly and isolate them. Tam says we need to test more people for that to happen. Canada is aiming to test 60,000 people per day, including anyone with symptoms and asymptomatic people in high-risk environments. This week, Canada is testing an average of 26,000 per day, so we’re not quite half-way there. “That’s one of the things we are working very hard to have in place, the surveillance that we need, the testing that we need, the contact tracing in our community that we need,” Henry said. Alberta’s already started offering tests to asymptomatic people in Calgary, which has been particularly hard-hit by the virus. “The success of our testing program is that we can respond to demand, we can respond to surges and that’s what we’re making sure we have put in place,” Alberta chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw said last week. Also on HuffPost: