Experts say it’s time to stay masked-up—indoors and out!
Canada is now tracking several of the more infectious virus variants within our borders, and the situation demands renewed vigilance, experts say
By now, unless you’ve been living on a remote island without any form of outside communication, you know that the science surrounding the wearing of masks to control the spread of the virus is clear. Masking is our best defence.
Study after study has shown that masks save lives by reducing the risk of both transmitting and catching the virus as well as moderating the severity of the disease if someone becomes infected.
In some countries, mask wearing is mandatory indoors and out, while in Canada, rules vary by city and province, although most regions require wearing a mask indoors. Wearing a mask outdoors is recommended if you plan to walk through a crowded area, stand in a packed line-up, or be confined in close proximity to others for whatever reason—especially in the winter months.
Dr. Mitch Shulman, an emergency physician at the McGill University Health Centre told CTV Montreal recently that “exhaled virus droplets behave differently in cold weather compared to warm climates. As a result, the risk of virus transmission during winter is greater than at any other time of year.
“Winter is a particularly dangerous time. The virus likes cold, dry weather and so if you’re outdoors, not maintaining proper distancing, (or) wearing a mask, you are actually at more risk than you might otherwise have been,” Shulman warned.
Experts everywhere agree that while it used to be true that being outdoors without a mask might be safer than indoors, now the risks, due to the emergence of the new highly contagious variants, is far greater both indoors and out. In fact, many experts now recommend not only that we wear masks indoors and outdoors, but that we give serious consideration to the types and quality of the masks we’re wearing to protect ourselves.
Whether that means wearing better quality masks, doubling up on masks, or wearing them indoors and out, experts say it’s time we step up our game. Today, there are many possibilities available to help us to stave off these new variants of the virus which are believed to be about 50 to 70 percent more transmissible than the earlier strain.
Up your mask game
The prime method of virus transmission, still true with the new variants, is through the droplets from our mouths—droplets that fly out when we speak, cough and sneeze. Some of these droplets become tiny particles that can easily be inhaled by people in close proximity.
That’s why doctors and nurses who work with virus patients wear gear referred to as “personal protective equipment,” or PPE, which maintains very strict standards and recommends that masks (or “respirators”) should have a 95 per cent filtration efficiency. Cloth masks were only every supposed to be a stopgap measure and it is time for a better mask solution say the transmission experts.
Canada currently recommends the use of a three-layer mask and luckily these are, for now, available through online PPE sellers, such as MedPPE Canada. Right now, MedPPE Canada features, on its website, 3-ply Yafox Type IIR certified masks, with bacterial and particle and bacterial filtration efficiencies of 98%. The masks are complete with ear-loops and sell for only $15.00. per box with 50 masks in a box.
Even with a 3-ply mask, it’s important that you make sure you are breathing through the mask material. In fact, you really should see the mask expand and then collapse and expand and collapse with each breath you take. That’s a good indication that you’re doing it correctly.
Although the 3-ply masks are a good everyday standard, Canadians perhaps should think of opting for masks that offer better protection when needed for venturing among crowded areas.
If you’re able to opt for N95s or KN95s, which are actually “respirators,” you should do so. Med PPE Canada’s KN95 respirator masks are recommended by Health Canada, the CDC, approved by the FDA and are an essential resource for keeping healthcare workers and the public safe. With almost identical specifications, these masks have similar filter performance, flow rate, inhalation and exhalation metrics resistance and KN95 masks are manufactured from a non-woven fabric which helps keep users safe from smog, dust, air pollution, bacteria and more. MedPPE Canada sells them for $96.60 per box and each box contains 70 KN95 respirator masks.
Recently, Linsey Marr, one of the top aerosol scientists working in the world today, and an expert on the airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech said: “When I go to the grocery store now, I wear my very best mask. Before I was wearing an OK mask that was comfortable and easy.” Marr continued saying that although a cloth mask can “filter out half of particles, maybe more, we’re at the point where we need better performance.”
More and more people, who are rightly concerned about contracting one of the new virus variants, are doubling up and wearing two masks which are known to add another level of effectiveness.
American immunologist, Dr. Erin Bromage, says “a tight-fitting mask is more important than ever due to the emergence of variants, which is why it’s becoming more common to see people ‘double-masking.’ I really want people to look at them and think, is all the air going through the material? And if it’s not, work out a way to do that,” he said. “And that may be putting a second mask on or finding a different mask that fits their face.”