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

Ballenas students help keep essential community services going

Club donates $1,000 to SOS Grateful Hearts campaign

Rebound recovery program helps more than 50 PQB businesses remain open

Nearly $90K in aid received through Oceanside Initiatives plan

Parksville-area family receives anonymous letters complaining children are being too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in the backyard is ‘unbearable’

PQBeat Podcast: Beloved Parksville volunteer Joan LeMoine

Discussion includes childhood memories, receiving the key to the city and more

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Cooler days help crews fighting fire on mountainside southwest of Nanaimo

Firefighters making progress, but it’s ‘slow-going,’ says B.C. Wildfire Service

Crews work overnight to try to put out wildfire on Pender Island

Fire department and B.C. Wildfire Service crews extinguishing fire in ‘extremely difficult terrain’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Woman arrested near Nanaimo beach after alleged road rage incidents

37-year-old woman facing charges including assault, assaulting a police officer, impaired driving

Most Read