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Should Canada revise mask recommendations in light of new COVID-19 variants?

Last Updated Jan 28, 2021 at 6:20 am PST

FILE - Packages of face masks. (CITYNEWS/Tony Fera)
Summary

Several countries are revising their mask advice to prevent another surge in COVID-19 cases as variants spread

Health Canada suggests it is sticking to same advice for time being, recommending people wear three-layer masks

Some countries are recommending people double mask while others highlight positives of surgical masks over cloth ones

TORONTO – With concerns rising over new, highly contagious COVID-19 variant strains, several countries around the world are revising their mask advice to prevent another surge in cases.

However, mask recommendations in Canada have been the same for months and there is no sign any new advice is on the way.

In the U.S., wearing two masks — one on top of the other — has become common. Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, says it makes sense to do so.

“And that’s the reason why you see people either double masking or doing a version of an N95,” he says.

“This is a physical covering to prevent droplets and virus to get in,” explains Fauci. “You put another layer on it just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.”

Canada’s mask guidelines last updated in November

The Public Health Agency of Canada continues to recommend the use of three-layer non-medical masks with a filter layer. That has not been updated since November before the new variants of the virus emerged.

According to the agency, masks should be made of two layers that are “tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen,” with a third layer in between made of a “filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric.”

Masks should also be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth, and chin without gaping.

The agency tells the Toronto Star it will stick to that advice for the time being.

Experts say that double-masking helps the mask that is closest to the skin fit more snugly.

In Europe, countries including Austria and France are now saying cloth masks are out and surgical masks are in. Germany has made surgical masks mandatory in grocery stores and on public transit.