Gateway Gazette

Health Canada on Non-medical Masks and Face Coverings

How to protect others

The best thing you can do to prevent spreading COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If none is available, use hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.

To protect others, you should also:

  • stay at home if you are ill
  • maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others
    • when physical distancing cannot be maintained, consider wearing a non-medical mask or homemade face covering
  • avoid touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes

Wearing a homemade non-medical mask/facial covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings, such as:

  • stores
  • shopping areas
  • public transportation

Public health officials will make recommendations based on a number of factors, including the rates of infection and/or transmission in the community.  In some jurisdictions, the use of masks in many indoor public spaces and on public transit is now mandatory. You can check with your local public health authority on the requirements for your location.

Wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. You must consistently and strictly adhere to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing.

Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering

When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:

  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping

Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should:

  • not be shared with others
  • not impair vision or interfere with tasks
  • not be placed on children under the age of 2 years
  • not be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
  • not be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
  • not be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
  • not be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing

Limitations

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.

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