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Wearing non-surgical face mask to stop spread of COVID-19 not safe for all: chief medical officer

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Apr 7, 2020 at 2:17 pm PDT

FILE - Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam arrives for a press conference on COVID-19 at West Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Non-surgical face masks can represent a suffocation risk for babies or toddlers: Tam

Face coverings also not appropriate for people having trouble breathing or cannot remove them on their own

Canada has now conducted 346,000 COVID-19 tests, with five per cent positive for the virus

OTTAWA (NEWS 1130) — The country’s chief medical officer is warning people that wearing non-surgical face masks, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, is not safe for all.

Dr. Theresa Tam advised people on Tuesday to be careful when using non-surgical face masks as they can represent a suffocation risk for babies or toddlers.

She also said face coverings are not appropriate for people who are having trouble breathing or who cannot remove them on their own.

Tam added only medical workers should be wearing surgical, or N-95 masks because they’re scarce.

The day before, Tam said wearing non-surgical masks is a way for people who might have COVID-19 without realizing it to keep from spreading the illness to others.

“With this emerging information, the special advisory committee on COVID-19 has come to a consensus that wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as on public transit or maybe at a grocery store,” she said then.

“A non-medical mask can reduce the chance of your respiratory droplets coming into contact with others, or land on surfaces.”

Wearing a non-medical mask in the community has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, Tam said.

Canada has now conducted 346,000 COVID-19 tests, with five per cent positive for the virus, she added.

While long-term care homes, hospitals, and correctional facilities are at high risk to outbreaks, Tam said First Nations and Inuit communities are of increasing concern.

“These communities are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19 due to distances, access to necessary resources and underlying health conditions.”

As of Tuesday morning, Canada had reported more than 17,000 cases of COVID-19, including 345 deaths.

Nova Scotia reported its first COVID-19-related death.

B.C. had recorded 39 deaths. Ontario had 153, including 10 on Tuesday, while Quebec had 121.