should i wear a face mask

Canada hasn't joined other countries in recommending face masks to protect against COVID-19

The question of whether face masks should be used to protect asymptomatic residents from contracting and spreading COVID-19 has been ongoing in Canada since the outbreak began.

And though the country's public health officials continue to tell Canadians not to wear masks to protect against the virus, others are questioning why that is considering epidemiologists in other countries are saying the opposite.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has continuously recommended against wearing masks for several reasons. 

Dr. Tam has specifically advised against wearing medical-grade masks in order to ensure there's enough supply for healthcare workers. She's also said masks can give a false sense of security and, if used incorrectly, can actually contribute to the transmission of the virus. 

She says people wearing masks tend to touch their face even more than those who aren't, which defeats the entire purpose of wearing one in the first place. 

"Even in a hospital setting, we find that it’s removing personal protective equipment that can actually lead to infections," Dr. Tam said in a press conference Monday. "So if people try to use these measures they have to be really, really careful and wash their hands, absolutely that’s the key."

This stance has been consistent in Canada since the arrival of COVID-19, and it doesn't appear to be changing anytime soon. 

But as countries such as Austria and the U.S. move in the direction of widespread mask use to protect residents against the virus, some Canadians are wondering why we aren't doing the same. 

Canadian journalist Robyn Urback posed the question on Twitter Monday, and it resulted in a lengthy thread.

"Why is Dr. Tam saying this? Serious question," Urback wrote in response to a video of Dr. Tam advising against using masks. 

"There is plenty of evidence touting the benefits of even homemade masks for asymptomatic people, who can shed the virus without knowing they are infected. The worldwide trend is moving toward more mask usage."

The Twitter thread is full of comments reiterating the need for medical-grade masks to be reserved for healthcare professionals. But the question of why homemade masks — which wouldn't be fit for medical use either way — aren't being encouraged remains.

Contrary to what many of the country's top doctors are saying, Canadian doctor Lisa Bryski told the Canadian Press she's seen how masks have been used to slow the spread in places like Hong Kong and South Korea and she believes the same practice could also work here.

"We only have three months experience with this virus. We’ve seen what can help in other countries, we’ve seen what can be devastating to other countries. Masks are a controversial thing right now in our country because we’re trying to preserve a resource," she told CP.

"As a group, we as Canadians need to bump up our education on this issue.... Can we keep safety precautions going just as strong when we have that mask on?" she continued.

"I think we need to become a country that is not only well versed on proper hand-washing techniques and proper ways of physical distancing, but we also need to be well-versed on the use of masks."

Lead photo by

Elbert Barnes

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