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Feds officially recommend wearing face masks in public places

Canada’s public health officials are now officially recommending the use of non-medical masks in public places. - Reuters

Canada’s public health officials are now officially recommending the use of non-medical masks in public places.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, announced Wednesday at her daily news briefing that a federal/provincial/territorial advisory committee consisting of medical officers across Canada has mutually decided to direct Canadians to use non-medical cloth masks or face coverings as an extra layer of protection when going out in public, especially in light of recent reopening activities.

Dr. Theresa Tam
Dr. Theresa Tam

“As more people go out in the community there will be more people on public transport, some of the retail stores are beginning to open for example, and if you can't predict whether you can maintain that two-metre distance … the chief medical officers felt that they can recommend this … specifically if there’s been community transmission in your jurisdiction,” Tam said.

Tam said although medical officers in each province and territory came to a consensus about the recommendation, individual provinces will have the flexibility to recommend mask-wearing or not depending on the level of community transmission in the area.

Wednesday’s announcement is not much different than what Tam and other public health officials have been saying for more than a month, except that it is now an official recommendation. In April, Tam and Health Minister Patty Hajdu both said they would wear facial coverings in public, and Tam has consistently told Canadians that masks, while not a substitute for physical distancing and hand-washing, are beneficial to wear in public — not to protect the wearer, but to prevent the wearer from spreading their droplets to others.

Evidence hasn't changed

The evidence surrounding mask-wearing has not changed much over the last few months, Tam said, as more evidence about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission has been discovered.

“Though we don't fully understand their role in transmission, it is an added layer of protection even for people who don't have symptoms to wear a mask to prevent transmission to others,” she said.

“If two people are wearing masks, I'm protecting you and you're protecting me.”

Tam stressed that it’s still important for Canadians to maintain physical distancing and practice good hygiene even with the new recommendations in place, and to avoid touching their face to adjust their masks. She said staying home when sick is still required in all jurisdictions.

As of Wednesday, the Government of Canada had added a section to its canada.ca/coronavirus online portal specifically dealing with mask-wearing that includes recommendations on the type of materials to use or not use, how to make sure your mask fits correctly, when to change or wash your mask, and who should not wear masks.

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