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Wearing a MASK: A False Sense of Security

Updated: Jul 11, 2020


Effective July 7th, the City of Toronto (among many other places in the world) has mandated wearing masks in public indoor spaces.


“From masks not being recommended to be worn at the beginning of the pandemic to now being mandated in many places...the shifting guidelines may have caused some confusion and many questions! What masks should we wear? Does it lower our oxygen levels? Can masks actually block the coronavirus droplets?”

The objective of this blog is to share mask-wearing related resources and bring awareness as to what protection a mask provides. Aside from the resources and guidelines provided, this blog also explores the effectiveness of wearing masks and what to specifically watch out for.


The COVID-19 pandemic rendered us in lockdown mode for nearly three months. Now that businesses have re-opened, we must be diligent and do our utmost to not catch or spread the virus. The objective of this blog is to help educate the effectiveness of masks, its level of protection AND what more can be done to increase that protection.



RESOURCES


World Health Organization (WHO)


On June 5th, WHO issued new guidelines for face masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that they be used in more situations than previously advised.


The World Health Organization has changed its stance on wearing face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public

Does WHO recommend the use of fabric masks for the general public?


At the present time, the widespread use of masks everywhere is not supported by high-quality scientific evidence, and there are potential benefits and harms to consider.

However, there are some settings in which it may not be possible to keep physical distancing and the use of a mask could be helpful to provide a barrier to limit the spread of potentially infectious droplets from someone who is infected. In addition, there is some evidence which suggests that some infected people without showing symptoms may be able to transmit the virus others.

For this reason, WHO advises that governments should encourage the use of non-medical fabric masks, which can act as a barrier to prevent the spread of the virus from the wearer to others where there are many cases of COVID-19, for people in the general public where physical distancing of at least 1 metre is not possible – such as, on public transport, in shops or in other confined or crowded environments.

It is important to note that masks should only be used as part of a comprehensive strategy. Masks on their own will not protect you from COVID-19. People should also clean their hands frequently and maintain a distance of at least 1 metre from others. 


Source: Updated June 5, 2020 -- https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-masks



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


The CDC recommends the use of cloth face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.


Their website on Cloth Face Covers comprises of how to wear cloth face coverings, washing, making and considerations.


An excerpt is included below, refer to the provided link for further details:


Considerations for Wearing Cloth Face Coverings

  • CDC recommends that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

  • Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others.

  • Cloth face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.

  • Cloth face coverings should NOT be worn by children under the age of 2 or anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.


Who Should Not Wear a Cloth Face Covering


Cloth face coverings should not be worn by:

  • Children younger than 2 years old

  • Anyone who has trouble breathing

  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance

Source: Updated June 28, 2020 -- https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html



Health Canada

Public Health Agency of Canada - chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on May 20th that non-medical masks should be worn when physical distancing cannot be achieved.


This website talks about:

  • How to protect others

  • Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering

  • Limitations (excerpt below)


Limitations TO NOTE on homemade masks:


Homemade masks are not medical devices and are not regulated like medical masks and respirators:

  • they have not been tested to recognized standards

  • the fabrics are not the same as used in surgical masks or respirators

  • the edges are not designed to form a seal around the nose and mouth

These types of masks may not be effective in blocking virus particles that may be transmitted by coughing, sneezing or certain medical procedures. They do not provide complete protection from virus particles because of a potential loose fit and the materials used.


Some commercially available masks have exhalation valves that make the mask more breathable for the person wearing it, but these valves also allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.


Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they don't protect others from COVID-19 and don't limit the spread of the virus.


Medical masks, including surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks), must be kept for health care workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients.