Who Should Wear a Face Mask?

Many businesses, such as grocery stores, may now require you to wear a mask to shop in-person, but what kind of mask is best?  What is available in Canada?  Can I make one?  

Chief Medical Officer 07APR20 Communication: Use of Non-Medical Masks by The Public.

The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading when you cough or sneeze. Some people can spread the virus when they have very mild symptoms or may be unaware they are infected. In this case, wearing a mask can help in containing your own droplets and protect others but it is important to remember that this is just one step in protecting you from contracting COVID-19, it needs to be used together with other preventive measures, such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing. 

Appropriate use of non-medical mask or face covering 

When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.

Non-medical face masks or face coverings should:

  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • maintain their shape after washing and drying
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
  • be made of at least 2 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose and mouth without gaping

Some masks also include a pocket to accommodate a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, for increased benefit.

Non-medical masks or face coverings should not:

  • be shared with others
  • impair vision or interfere with tasks
  • be placed on children under the age of 2 years
  • be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
  • be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
  • be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
  • be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing


Considering the use of homemade masks

If you are making a mask, here is some information to improve the effectiveness of homemade masks:

  • Some materials are better than others. Use clean and stretchy 100% cotton t-shirts or pillowcases.
  • Ensure the mask fits tightly around the nose and mouth; material that allows droplets to pass through will not work.
  • The mask should be comfortable, or you won’t want to wear it consistently.
  • If the mask makes it a lot harder to breathe, then the seal will not be as good, and the mask will be less effective.
  • Clean or change the mask often.


Disposing of used masks

Masks need to be changed frequently. To dispose of masks after use:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before taking off your mask.
  • Dispose of used masks in a wastebasket lined with the plastic bag.
  • After taking off your mask, wash your hands again with soap and water before touching your face or doing anything else.
  • When emptying wastebaskets, take care to not touch used masks or tissues with your hands. All waste can go into regular garbage bins.
  • Clean your hands with soap and water after emptying the wastebasket.

Medical Masks and N95 Respirators

Most people agree that N95 respirators should be reserved for front-line healthcare workers.  They need to be worn correctly and for short periods of time to be effective.  These masks are important to protect our nurses, doctors, and any other frontline workers that are treating those infected with the virus in hospitals, long-term care facilities, and family practices. In Canada, we are not self-sufficient as a Nation in the manufacturing of Personal Protective Equipment.  Subsequently, we do not have the supply necessary and cannot buy them due to the demand worldwide.  Hospitals are sterilizing and reusing N95 masks and have even engineered N95 facemask alternatives using a full face snorkel mask with a special filter.  Please donate to your local hospital or doctors office if you can.

Public Health Ontario is producing What We Know So Far documents for further information about COVID19.

Government of Alberta : When & How to Wear a Mask

We purchased masks from Canada Mask Supply and feel they are a good option as they are made of medical-grade polypropylene and follow the CDC recommened pattern.  Another option is to make your own homemade face covering by following Health Canada's Sew and No-Sew Instructions

Cover Image Artist: Pensee Sauvage/Shutterstock.com