A group of doctors and scientists in Alberta is calling on the province to make wearing a mask mandatory in all indoor spaces outside the home, in crowds and on public transit.
“Those jurisdictions that have a high masking rate actually are able to contain things without lockdowns and that’s our biggest concern, is that we start reopening, we see a surge in cases and we are forced to go back to the strict lockdown measures that we had in March,” Dr. Amy Tan, a family doctor with the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, told CBC News.
A study by scientists at Hamilton’s McMaster University published earlier this month concluded that masks and social distancing can help control the coronavirus but hand washing and other measures are still needed.
The researchers concluded single-layer cloth masks are less effective than surgical masks, while tight-fitting N95 masks provide the best protection.
A distance of one metre between people lowers the danger of catching the virus, while two metres, they said, is even better.
The request from Masks4Canada was made in an open letter to the provincial government and comes as the province begins Stage 2 of its COVID-19 recovery plan.
“Community transmission of COVID-19 is still there, the risk has not decreased,” Tan said. “So as people start interacting with each other we really want to keep people safe.”
Stage 2 will allow more businesses and services to reopen with two-metre physical distancing requirements and other public health measures in place.
The list includes:
- K-12 schools, for requested diploma exams and summer school.
- Libraries, with some restrictions.
- Places of worship.
- Wellness services, such as massage, acupuncture and reflexology.
- Personal services, including esthetics, cosmetics, skin and body treatments, manicures, pedicures, waxing, facial treatment and tanning.
- Movie theatres and theatres, with restrictions.
- Community halls, with limits on attendance.
- Team sports, with restrictions, for up to 50 players.
- Provincial campgrounds can operate at full capacity.
Health officials continue to recommend wearing masks whenever physical distancing isn’t possible but Alberta Health says it has no plans to make masks mandatory at this time.
Masks4Canada says it wants mask policies enforced with education, not harsh penalties, and would like masks made available on transit and, they say, they’ve taken similar action in Quebec and in Ontario, where some transit agencies recently announced a mask requirement.
Health officials continue to recommend wearing masks whenever physical distancing isn’t possible, but Alberta Health says it has no plans to make masks mandatory at this time.
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, says officials are reviewing emerging evidence.
“So right now what we’re doing is really encouraging Albertans to wear masks in public places particularly if they’re going to be in a space where there’s many people together,” she said Monday.
“[We] really encourage Albertans to go and pick up the masks that are being made available to them so that they can take this important public health measure.”
With files from CBC News, The Canadian Press