Wondering if you should wear a mask when you’re not sick or showing symptoms? A lot of us are. And it seems different countries have different advice.
Earlier this week, The US CDC recommended that all Americans wear cloth face covering when out in public and unable to social distance.
In Canada and BC, the advice is similar, but different. Our top doctors are now saying that if we want to wear a cloth, non-medical grade mask in public, we can “as an additional measure” to protect others.
Dr. Henry went on to note that wearing a homemade cloth mask is similar to coughing and sneezing into your elbow. In other words, it may help us avoid transmitting the virus to others. But a mask alone will not stop you from getting COVID-19.
Both Dr. Tam and Dr. Henry strongly agree that cloth face masks are not a substitute for the basic safety measures we already have in place—wash your hands often, don’t touch your face, stay home as much as possible and when you do go out, practice physical distancing.
So, in Canada, cloth face masks—made at home or bought elsewhere—are not at this time a strict recommendation, but they are definitely a permissible option and may even help asymptomatic patients stop the spread of COVID-19 to others.
If you do make cloth masks for you and your family or friends, make an effort to put it on and leave it alone. Avoid readjusting as this can transfer what you’ve touched to your face.
As well, when it’s time to remove your mask, reach behind your ears and pull the elastic (or fabric ties) back and out to release it from your ears. Then, without touching the cloth mask or letting it touch you (just hold the elastic or ties), drop the mask in a plastic bag and close it up until you’re ready to wash the mask thoroughly with detergent and water before wearing again.
What do you think? Are you going to wear a mask? Maybe make your own at home for family and friends? Remember, you’ll need to make several for each person if you’re going to follow best practices in wearing them.
And if you want to get really crafty, there are now lots of videos offering tutorials on adding a pocket to slip in additional protection like coffee filters! There's no solid evidence that it helps, but a quick search will show you how it's done.
The bottom line, right now, Canada is not requiring its citizens to wear cloth face masks in public. But it’s okay if you do. And if you continue to follow all the basic safety rules of the pandemic, adding a cloth mask to your outings might even help to settle just a bit of the anxiety we all feel when we’re in difficult social distancing situations.