Cana­di­ans should wear masks when in public, Tam says

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Canada & World - MIA RABSON

OT­TAWA—Canada’s public health ex­perts are now fully rec­om­mend­ing Cana­di­ans wear non-med­i­cal face masks in public when they aren’t sure they will be able to keep their dis­tance from oth­ers.

Dr. Theresa Tam said the new rec­om­men­da­tion comes as stay-at-home or­ders are lift­ing in dif­fer­ent prov­inces and more peo­ple are go­ing out­side, rid­ing public tran­sit, or vis­it­ing stores.

“This will help us re­open and add another layer to how you go out safely,” Tam said Wed­nes­day in her daily brief­ing.

She said a full ex­pla­na­tion of the new rec­om­men­da­tion by the na­tional spe­cial ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee on COVID-19 would be pub­lished later Wed­nes­day.

The ad­vice is slightly stronger than the sug­ges­tions over the past cou­ple of weeks that peo­ple should con­sider wear­ing a face mask in public. It is a com­plete turn­around from her ad­vice seven weeks ago that peo­ple who are not sick should not be wear­ing a face mask at all.

Tam said ini­tially it was be­lieved the coro­n­avirus was only spread­ing from peo­ple show­ing symp­toms. That un­der­stand­ing has changed, as it is now known peo­ple can trans­mit the virus days be­fore symp­toms show up. Some pa­tients may never show symp­toms at all and can still spread the virus to oth­ers.

She said in fu­ture res­pi­ra­tory out­breaks, wear­ing face masks might be­come a nor­mal part of the public health re­sponse. She did not sug­gest she re­grets rec­om­mend­ing against us­ing face masks ear­lier. She said the tried-and-true public health mea­sures of test­ing, con­tact trac­ing, hand­wash­ing and phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing have worked to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Canada.

The shift in ad­vice came Wed­nes­day with the sight of more MPs and cabi­net min­is­ters ar­riv­ing in masks on Par­lia­ment Hill for the weekly in-per­son COVID-19 com­mit­tee sit­ting. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau said he will be wear­ing a face mask when­ever he feels he can’t stay two me­tres away from oth­ers out­side his home. Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land and Con­ser­va­tive MP Gar­nett Genuis were also in face masks on the Hill, though Genuis was the only one who kept his mask on while in­side the House of Com­mons. He took it off when he stood to speak.

Some coun­tries have made wear­ing face masks manda­tory in public, in­clud­ing Spain, which en­acted such a rule this week. Tam said manda­tory mask use across Canada doesn’t make sense be­cause the risk is far dif­fer­ent in the Yukon or Prince Ed­ward Is­land than it is in Mon­treal or Toronto.

She said lo­cal health of­fi­cials may choose to make the rec­om­men­da­tion for face masks manda­tory in their ju­ris­dic­tions.

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