Masks4Canada group is calling on the federal government to make a country-wide mask mandate. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Masks4Canada group is calling on the federal government to make a country-wide mask mandate. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)

Masks4Canada group calls for federal mask mandate to slow spread of COVID-19

The group says cases continue to rise in crowded places, close-contact settings and closed spaces

The group Masks4Canada is calling on the federal government and Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam to implement a federal mask mandate across the country.

The Masks4Canada group was originally formed by a group of doctors and dentists in B.C. during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. They are now an alliance of over 1,900 Canadian physicians, professionals and citizens who recently wrote a letter asking the federal government to make a more uniform mandate when it comes to wearing masks. This comes as cases continue to rise country-wide and mask mandates vary from province to province.

This is not the first time that the group has called for a mask mandate. Back in August, Masks4Canada called on the province of B.C. for masks to be made mandatory in public spaces. They have also sent open letters to Alberta, Ontario and Quebec health officials.

The BC Centre for Disease Control says masks should be worn if you are sick or if you are caring for someone with COVID-19. Otherwise, it is a personal choice whether or not you wear a mask, although provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has said a mask is a useful layer of protection if a two-metre distance cannot be maintained.

Although masks are not mandatory in B.C., many businesses and organizations have taken mandates into their own hands. BC Transit, TransLink retail stores like Superstore and Walmart, schools, public institutions and many health care locations require masks. Some locally owned businesses have also made it mandatory to wear a mask upon entry, while middle and high school students must wear a face covering in “high traffic areas” within their schools. Masks are also required for personal care services.

Each province has different rules regarding masks, hence Masks4Canada’s call for more definitive direction as the second wave begins across parts of the country.

The BC CDC says it’s important that mask wearing is combined with other preventative measures including hand-washing and physical distancing.

“[A federal mask mandate] will send a strong message that we are in this together and we can once again get this under control if we work together as a country, not as a patchwork of bylaws done at the municipal or provincial level,” reads the letter from Masks4Canada. “With interprovincial travel, and likely more international travel in the future, our community cases within the provinces that are not doing well will start to spread to the other provinces that are doing better. We need to learn from other countries by adopting measures from those that are doing well, and avoiding the mistakes of those that are doing poorly. It is up to your government to step up and keep us all safe and let our economy continue to recover.”

The letter goes on to say that “young people” continue to party and exceed gathering limits. Masks4Canada says that they agree with mandatory masking for students in school, but ask why this is not uniform across the country for students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and those in universities and colleges.

“We are very happy that some municipal bylaws have mandated masks in all indoor public spaces such as grocery stores and shopping malls, and on public transit such as buses, taxis, and Ubers,” said Masks4Canada. “What about private businesses, factories, hospitals, and common areas in condos [or] apartment buildings?”

READ MORE: COVID-19 won’t spook away trick-or-treating if safety rules followed: health officers

The group says they understand that businesses need to re-open so the economy can rebuild, however they wonder why “high-risk” businesses are still able to run without masks including bars, gyms, casinos and strip clubs.

Masks4Canada says cases are occurring in high-risk, crowded situations. They called this the “Three C’s”: Crowded places, close-contact settings and closed spaces.

“Environments that violate the Three C’s include private businesses and factories, schools including universities and colleges, hospitals, common areas in condos/apartment buildings, weddings in banquet halls, places of worship, gyms/sports facilities, and private parties,” wrote Masks4Canada. “In these situations, people often do not or are unable to distance due to the nature of the work, or there is a sense of ‘these are people we know and trust so there is no reason to distance from them.’ It is in these situations where mandatory masking will help to protect those we know and trust.”

Canada’s COVID-19 guidelines make no mention of the virus spreading through aerosols, but rather they say that COVID-19 spreads through close contact, contaminated surfaces and common greetings like hand shaking and hugs.

The U.S. CDC, however, does acknowledge that COVID-19 can sometimes be spread through aerosols, or small droplets and particles.

Masks4Canada says this means that even if people are trying to avoid crowded spaces and close-contact by staying two metres apart, it is still possible for them to transmit the virus to each other in an enclosed, poorly ventilated space if they are not masked.

They say that mandatory lockdown is not sustainable from an economic standpoint and that mandatory masks would add another layer of protection.

READ MORE: B.C. records 549 COVID-19 cases, 5 new deaths over Thanksgiving long weekend

“Out of all of these preventative measures, only masks that are properly worn can stop the virus at its source,” says Masks4Canada. “Masks are a very low cost measure compared to the incredibly high costs of testing, ER and assessment centre visits, and ICU stays which are already overwhelming the system and are increasing at rates that we will soon be unable to control.”

Public health advice on the use of masks has changed over the course of the pandemic. At first, Tam and other health officials discouraged mask use but have since shifted to recommending them, specifically because carriers of the virus can spread it without showing symptoms.

“But a recommendation, even a strong one, has not been enough. By making masks mandatory, hopefully we will be able to achieve 80 per cent masking which is needed in order to reduce transmission,” said the letter from Masks4Canada.

Masks4Canada says education around proper mask wearing will make it easy for everyone to follow the suggested mandate. Combining mask wearing with proper hand-washing and physical distancing means less chance of transmission. They say masks must cover both the nose and mouth at all times and should be a cloth or disposable mask (not a bandana, neck gaiter or valved mask). They suggest that rather than handing out fines for not wearing a mask, a proper mask and education should be provided instead.

With files from The Canadian Press



corey.bullock@cranbrooktownsman.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Port Alice Royal Canadian Legion building. (Port Alice Royal Canadian Legion Facebook photo)
Four local Legions nab federal support money

The Royal Canadian Legion received $14 million for disbursement to branches across Canada

The barge sank again on Jan. 8 and is still resting under water. (Bill McQuarrie photo)
UPDATE: Barge will stay under water in Port McNeill marina until February

The sunken barge was reported to Environment Canada.

Mount Cain
Mount Cain cancels ‘Cain Cup’ due to COVID-19 restrictions

‘It is unfortunate that we had to make this decision’

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
536 COVID cases, 7 deaths reported as B.C. find its first case of South African variant

Henry said 69,746 people have received their first dose of the COVID vaccine.

Alan Davidson was sentenced to almost six years for abusing seven boys in the late 1970s and early 1990s. (Canadian Press file)
Full parole granted to former Mountie, sports coach convicted of sex abuse of boys

Alan Davidson convicted of abusing boys in B.C. and Saskatchewan in late ’70s, early ’90s

The first COVID-19 vaccine arrives in B.C. in temperature-controlled containers, Dec. 13, 2020. (B.C. government)
More vaccine arrives as B.C. struggles with remote COVID-19 cases

Long-term care homes remain focus for public health

North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring has expressed his frustration with harassment of people who have made racist comments online about Cowichan Tribes in the wake of a COVID-19 outbreak in the First Nation. (Citizen file)
Island mayor calls for de-escalation as social media gets uglier in racism fight

“Racism is wrong. But so is this kind of reaction”:

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada said a lack of experienced crew members and the inability to detect navigational errors is what led to a Sooke search and rescue boat running aground in February 2019. (Twitter / @VicJRCC_CCCOS)
TSB: Sooke search and rescue boat crash caused by ‘misinterpretation of navigational information’

Crew members were lacking experience and unable to detect navigational errors

The first Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine dose in Canada is prepared at The Michener Institute in Toronto on Monday, Dec. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in 60 B.C. First Nations by next week

B.C. has allocated 25,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to First Nations for distribution by the end of February

Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone questions the NDP government in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 25, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Todd Stone says he’s not running for B.C. Liberal leadership

Kamloops MLA was widely viewed as a front-runner

Wireless voice and data services are out for those on Telus as of Thursday (Jan. 14) afternoon across Western Canada, Telus Support said in a recent Tweet. (Black Press file photo)
UPDATE: Telus services restored across Western Canada

Telus said they are monitoring the situation to ensure connections remain stable

Most Read