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

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced 16 additional deaths Thursday. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
No easing of Alberta’s COVID-19 measures Thursday, 678 new COVID-19 cases

The province also hit 1,500 COVID-19 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic

Lucas Berg, left, with the backpacks filled with essential items he donated to the Red Deer Mustard Seed Jan. 19, 2021. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka youth fills backpacks for less fortunate

Lucas Berg, 14, of Ponoka County, donated 20 backpacks he filled with necessities

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said the Canadian government should consider sanctions on the U.S. if they refuse to reconsider the decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Keystone XL officially cancelled, Kenney vows to fight on

U.S. President Joe Biden cancelled the presidential permit for the pipeline on first day of office

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said province’s test positivity rate for COVID-19 is steadily declining. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
669 new COVID-19 cases in Alberta, 21 additional deaths

COVID-19 test positivity rate down to 4.5 per cent

The Calnash Ag Event Centre will be closed for competitions until at least Jan. 21, 2020. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Outlook for Calnash in 2021 a waiting game

Ag event centre losing thousands during shutdown

Gov. Gen. Julie Payette takes the royal salute from the Guard of Honour as she makes her way deliver the the throne speech, Wednesday, September 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Gov. Gen. Julie Payette resigns, apologizes for ‘tensions’ at Rideau Hall

Payette, who is the Queen’s representative in Canada, has been the governor general since 2017

Grounded WestJet Boeing 737 Max aircraft are shown at the airline’s facilities in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, May 7, 2019. WestJet will operate the first commercial Boeing 737 Max flight in Canada today since the aircraft was grounded in 2019 following two deadly crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Passengers unfazed as WestJet returns Boeing 737 Max to service on Calgary flight

After a lengthy review process, Transport Canada cleared the plane to return to Canadian airspace

(Photo submitted)
Community Futures brings back Social Media Challenge for 2021

This time the challenge is for non-profits and community groups

A conveyor belt transports coal at the Westmoreland Coal Co.’s Sheerness mine near Hanna, Alta., on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2016. Coal mining impacts are already occurring in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains even as debate intensifies over the industry’s presence in one of the province’s most beloved landscapes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
As Alberta debates coal mining, industry already affecting once-protected Rockies

UCP revoked a policy that had protected eastern slopes of the Rockies from open-pit coal mining since 1976

In this Dec. 18, 2020 photo, pipes to be used for the Keystone XL pipeline are stored in a field near Dorchester, Neb. TC Energy Corp. is planning to eliminate more than 1,000 construction jobs related to its decision to halt work on its Keystone XL pipeline expansion project. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Machian /Omaha World-Herald via AP
TC Energy cutting more than 1,000 Keystone XL construction jobs as Biden pulls permit

Some 200 kilometres of pipe have already been installed for the expansion

Kyla Gibson with her boyfriend Gavin Hardy. (Photo used with permission)
Sylvan Lake couple lose ‘fur babies’ to house fire

‘They were our world and nothing will ever replace them,’ Kyla Gibson said of her three pets

(Thesendboys/Instagram)
Video of man doing backflip off Vancouver bridge draws police condemnation

Group says in Instagram story that they ‘don’t do it for the clout’

Most Read