Masks are important for staying safe and healthy during the pandemic. Face masks and shields protect your mouth, nose and eyes from infectious droplets when someone who is sick coughs or sneezes. If you have not been wearing a mask regularly, now's the time to start - and if you are already in the habit, now's the time to kick it up a notch!
Proper Medical PPE helps to keep the coronavirus from spreading from person to person, allows people to more safely go to work and school, makes it safer to see friends and loved ones , and safer to go shopping or engage in outdoor activities.
Of course, PPE is not the only tool against the coronavirus. The combination of medical PPE with reduced and limited in-person gatherings, widely available testing and greater attention to hand washing and disinfecting surfaces, have really made a difference in the fight to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The variants first identified in South Africa and the U.K are spreading in Canada, in some cases with no known link to travel, and have already led to devastating outbreaks in long-term care homes. The variant discovered in the U.K., known as B117, is estimated to be at least 56 per cent more transmissible and potentially more deadly than the original coronavirus strain.
But even as COVID-19 case numbers show early signs of slowing down in Canada, it is becoming more important than ever to lower our risk of exposure as much as possible to prevent variants from taking hold here.
Now, experts are worried that the arrival of more contagious variants of the virus combined with the homemade and low grade protection masks will allow coronavirus to spread faster than ever. The spread of more contagious coronavirus variants in Canada amid already high levels of COVID-19 makes it a critical time to think about the masks we wear.
The coronavirus variants spread more easily than earlier versions of the virus. That means you may need to upgrade your face mask. Whether that means finding better quality masks, doubling up on masks, or wearing them in settings we would not normally think to, experts say it is time we step up our game.
What does that mean? Many experts are recommending people wear a fitted medical masks or a well-fitted N95 mask which provides better protection than a homemade cloth mask. By layering a cloth mask over a disposable medical mask significantly boosts your protection against the coronavirus by ensuring a tighter fit against your face, says a new study from CDC
"A medical or surgical mask is better than a cloth mask, a tight-fitting surgical mask is better than a loose-fitting mask, and an N95 is better than a medical or surgical mask" -Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This advice applies especially to those wearing single-layer cloth masks, bandanas or poorly fitted masks, which offer the least protection to the wearer and those around them. With more highly contagious virus variants now circulating, some European nations, including Germany and Austria, are ditching cloth masks altogether and requiring that citizens wear medical-grade masks in stores and on public transport.
Canada currently recommends the use of three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer to prevent the spread of the virus, but has not updated its recommendations since November, before the emergence of new variants. Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton, said that while three-layer non-medical masks are a good "minimum standard," Canadians should opt for masks that offer better protection whenever possible.