Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing Wednesday May 13, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing Wednesday May 13, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Wearing non-medical masks now recommended in public: Canada’s top doctor

Hand-washing, staying home when sick are still key, officials say

The country’s chief medical officer is now recommending that non-medical masks be worn when physical distancing is not possible this spring and summer.

Dr. Theresa Tam unveiled the new advice Wednesday (May 20) in the perhaps final evolution of federal advice on non-medical masks.

“Use of non-medical masks is recommended as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain,” Tam said, although she noted that masks are not a replacement for distancing where possible, hand-washing and staying home when sick.

“Hand-washing is the right accessory for all venues and accessories.”

As provinces around the country begin to reopen, Tam acknowledged that this was “not the grand reopening” Canadians might want, but that measures to prevent transmission would allow more time for treatments and a vaccine to be developed.

Tam defended her office’s messaging on masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Her position on masks has changed from saying the masks “can” help prevent transmission in early April to a firm recommendation today. South of the border, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control told Americans to wear masks in public on April 3.

“The earlier messaging was more permissive,” Tam said.

“It is an added layer of protection. It is for you to protect others.”

Even last week, Tam told reporters that recommending masks for all is “easier said than done” and that making sure masks were even available for all has been a consideration in whether to make masks orders mandatory.

“We have to make sure people have access,” she said at the time.

Tam said Wednesday’s announcement was a recommendation, and not an order, because different provincial health officers must make decisions based on virus transmission in their jurisdiction.

As she was peppered with questions about her changing mask advice, Tam said the focus should be on the “here and now,” and that changing advice over the weeks and months was the right move for Canada.

“Now that we are reopening… a lot of activities, the chief medical officers felt we can recommend this for people who cannot maintain that two metre distance.”

As of Wednesday morning, Canada had more than 79,000 test positive cases of COVID-19 and 5,912 deaths. More than 1.3 million people have been tested for the virus, with about five per cent positive.

READ MORE: Wearing non-medical masks can stop spread of COVID-19 before symptoms start

READ MORE: Non-medical masks can help when physical distancing not possible, says Tam

READ MORE: Canada’s top doctors defend mask advice as country tops 50,000 COVID-19 cases

READ MORE: Only two new COVID-19 cases in B.C., one in care home


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CanadaCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Kyler Corriveau, of the Eckville area, was found dead on Sunday southeast of Red Deer. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contributed photo).
Young Red Deer homicide victim is remembered as a caring friend

Police are investigating Kyler Corriveau’s untimely death

Sylvan Lake Winter Village. File Photo
3 charged in connection to vandalism at Sylvan Lake Winter Village

Sylvan Lake RCMP were able to identify the suspects thanks to community assistance

Sabrina Armeneau
Sylvan Lake RCMP search for woman missing for five years

Sabrina Armeneau was reported missing on Jan. 15, but has not been seen in five years

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Central Alberta teenager donates filled 20 backpacks to Red Deer Mustard Seed

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County says he ‘just wants to help people’

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. TC Energy Corp. is planning to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
TC Energy cutting more than 1,000 Keystone XL construction jobs as Biden pulls permit

Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Canadian malls, conference centres, hotels offer up space for COVID vaccination centres

Commercial real estate association REALPAC said that a similar initiative was seeing success in the U.K.

Most Read