Toronto recommends wearing face masks if physical distancing not possible

May 20 2020, 1:43 pm

To help stop the spread of COVID-19, Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Mayor John Tory strongly recommended that the public wear a face mask or face covering in places where physical distancing cannot be maintained.

On Wednesday, de Villa said that Toronto Public Health advises that wearing a face mask or face covering in public can help protect others from your germs.

However, public health officials continue to stress that a face mask or face covering has not been proven to protect the person wearing it from COVID-19 and is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing.

Wearing a face mask or face covering could help protect others from your germs while indoors, in spaces such as elevators, grocery and retail stores, on public transit, and in a taxi or ride share service where maintaining physical distancing may be a challenge.

In outdoor settings where there is plenty of space while walking or running, a face mask or face covering is not recommended.

“At this time, face masks or non-medical masks are not mandatory in Toronto,” de Villa said.

She added that face masks and face coverings should allow for easy breathing, fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, maintain shape after washing and drying, include at least two layers of tightly woven cotton or linen and cover the nose and mouth without gaping.

Masks should not be shared with others and cloth masks should be washed after each use in a hot cycle and non-reusable masks should be discarded after use.

However, not everyone should wear a mask, including children under the age of two, anyone who has a medical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult, or who cannot remove the mask without assistance.

And, medical masks, including N-95 masks, should not be worn by the general public so the supply of medical masks is available for use as personal protective equipment for healthcare and frontline workers.

Mayor Tory also announced that Toronto will be leading by example on face masks.

While the City already provides surgical masks and other pieces of personal protective equipment to employees who require it to do their jobs, staff will also be encouraged to wear face coverings when in situations where it is advisable, based on public health advice.

To assist them in doing that, the City is beginning the process to secure over 100,000 reusable cloth masks to provide to our employees.

Employees will be encouraged to use these face coverings in their daily activities including while riding on public transit. Until the ordered masks arrive in four to six weeks, City staff, like other members of the community, will be encouraged to continue to use their own facial coverings when they are in situations where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing.

De Villa also noted that there are 263 new coronavirus cases in Toronto, making the total 9,129 with 6,735 recovered and 716 reported deaths.

She noted that the recent increase in local cases is from a greater volume of lab tests Toronto Public Health received over the last two days, with there being an increase especially in the City’s long-term care homes.

But de Villa said the increase in lab tests will provide a better picture of the local situation, adding that there is still a slow decline in cases.

Earlier on Wednesday, the Government of Ontario also recommended that individuals wear face masks when taking public transit as the pandemic continues.

Transportation Minister Caroline Mulroney said that taking public transit is essential for restarting the economy.

“Anyone travelling on public transit must wear a face covering,” Mulroney said.

The federal government also recommended wearing non-medical face masks on Wednesday.

“Where COVID-19 related activity is happening, the use of non-medical masks or face coverings is recommended, as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.