As the weather gets colder and outdoor events transition to indoor activities, Canada’s masking recommendations are adapting too.
You might’ve missed it, but the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) updated their COVID-19 mask use page on November 12, advising that cloth masks may not be the best form of protection.
“In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection,” PHAC stated on the page.
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PHAC also advises that “people who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19” and “people who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation” should opt for medical masks instead of cloth.
PHAC told Daily Hive in an email that the update is based on the latest evidence on COVID-19 variants of concern, an increased understanding of the impacts of vaccination and immunity in the population, and new data on the effectiveness of different mask types.
The agency also added an infographic on Wednesday, providing specific details on the different types of masks and respirators available for public use, including their availability, construction, fit and regulatory considerations and standards.
PHAC reiterated that they continue to recommend the use of three-layer, non-medical masks that include a middle filter layer.
“Updated advice further emphasizes that the degree of protection provided by non-medical masks varies with the construction, the number of layers, materials used, and most importantly, the fit of the mask,” the agency said in the email.
The updated guideline comes with Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam’s Twitter thread comparing the spread of COVID-19 through the air to second-hand smoke.
1/5 Layering #COVID19 protections is best! Evidence on aerosol spread of the #SARSCoV2 virus shows that expelled virus particles can spread over distances and linger in fine aerosols for periods of time, much like second-hand smoke. https://t.co/V5p7kz3ioX
— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) November 13, 2021
Aerosols, or smaller droplets, can linger in the air for longer, especially indoors. In the context of mask types, medical masks filter out large droplets, whereas respirators like the N95 offer more protection because it filters out both large and smaller droplets.
“As we spend more time indoors during the cooler weather months, we are more likely to come into close contact with others from outside our immediate household, including in spaces where ventilation may be less than optimal,” said PHAC.