Wearing Masks In Indoor Spaces

In this time of Covid-19 there has been lots of information about what we should and shouldn’t be doing. Now many people are upset about wearing a mask as it “takes away their civil rights.” Some areas in Canada are deciding whether to make wearing masks mandatory inside public spaces. 

Maybe we should be looking at Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea, just to name a few countries, that brought in manditory mask wearing as soon as Covid-19 hit. None of these countries had to shut down due to Covid-19. So maybe we should think about doing the greater good. Wearing a mask might not be comfortable, but it protects us all and really isn’t a sacrifice.

Dr. Catherine Clase a nephrologist and epidemiologist and an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University tells us why wearing a mask is a good idea. 

Should Masks Be Mandatory in Public Indoor Spaces?

My feelings about this and my thoughts about this have evolved over the last couple of weeks. Initially, I was very hopeful that voluntary mask-wearing would be adequate and would get mask use up to where it needs to be. But, for some people the fact that it's voluntary is misunderstood. So it will probably be simpler and more effective for it to become mandatory.

How Effective Are Masks?

We're very convinced that maks are effective for preventing transmission of a whole variety of pathogens. If you are near somebody with COVID and they are generating aerosols — tiny little particles — then you want a N95 masks. In the hospital, staff are wearing surgical masks or medical masks, the disposable mask that is often blue or yellow in colour. When you look at the material that those are made from — that material is going to filter at least 95% of the aerosol sized particles. A cloth mask on the other hand is giving you a 50% reduction, that halves your risk.

Studies have shown when looking at mouth bacteria, a mask prevents 99% from getting into the environment and about 90%  of those bacteria are in the aerosol sized particles. So, if mouth bacteria is contaminating the environment then a surgical/medical mask is preventing more than 90% contamination of the environment and a cloth mask is halving the risk beyond that. So for those wearing masks, the risk is reduced significantly.

Single Use Disposable Masks Or Reusable Masks?

Disposable masks isn’t feasible for the general public. Disposable masks should be kept for those who need them, health care workers and othe high risk occupations. 

We need to use reusable PPE whether that's a mask you buy or you make yourself, they need to be made of cloth. We want the mask to be at least two layers, maybe three layers — see what you can tolerate.

Make sure you wash the mask every time you use it. So, when you take it off, fold it dirty side to dirty side and put it in a brown paper bag and then when you put it back on do hand hygiene. Consider the outside surface of the mask contaminated and if you do touch it inadvertently do hand hygiene. At the end of the day, when you're back home and you're in your safe place put the mask in the washing machine and wash it on a warm or hot cycle.

What About People with Physical Limitations Which Prevents Them From Wearing a Mask?

This is an issues where we need to be kind and compassionate. Canadian are generally rule-abiding, so if it is mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces, then Canadians will hopefully recognize that those who are not wearing masks are probably not wearing them because they can't. And we need to be kind about that.

And if all of us who can wear a mask, wear a mask that will be the majority of the population. We'll be protecting the people who can't wear a mask.

What Do You Say To People Who Are Angry About Required Mandatory Masks?

Unfortuantely, in early June mask wearing in Canada was only at 58%, that is just not high enough. People would prefer that mask wearing not be manditory, but it doesn’t look like we will get to the 95% range necessary voluntarily. Therefore, it needs to be made mandatory to show the public how important mask wearing really is.



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