Masks

Masks

Photo by: Photo by August de Richelieu

Some countries have advocated for the use of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Please follow the local recommendations of public health agencies regarding the use of masks in your region.

When worn properly, a mask can reduce the spread of infectious respiratory droplets.2 In Canada, non-medical masks or face coverings have been recommended for use in the community when it is not possible to consistently practice physical (social) distancing by maintaining 2 metres (6 feet) from others.2,6 These community settings may include grocery stores and public transit.2 Air passengers are required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when flying into or within Canada.2

It is important to avoid touching the mask or the face, mouth, or eyes while wearing a mask.2

Importantly, mask use must be combined with other measures including physical distancing, frequent hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes to reduce the chances of exposure to respiratory droplets.2

In Canada, please follow guidelines from the Public Health Agency of Canada. In the following table, we summarize recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, World Health Organization, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Please follow recommendations of your local public health authorities in your jurisdiction.  

Question:Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC)1,2World Health Organization (WHO)3,4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)5
Who should wear medical masks?– Medical personnel .
– People caring for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– Medical personnel 
– People caring for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– When physical (social) distancing is not possible in areas of community transmission for:
1. Individuals 60 years and older
2. Individuals with pre-existing medical conditions.
– Healthcare workers and other medical first responders.
Who should wear non-medical masks or face coverings?– If medical masks are unavailable, people caring for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and individuals with COVID-19 symptoms can wear non-medical masks or face coverings.
– When physical (social) distancing is not possible (i.e. it is not possible to consistently maintain at least 2 metres or 6 feet from others) in public areas (e.g. grocery stores and public transit), it is recommended to wear a non-medical mask or face covering.
– Air passengers are required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when flying into or within Canada.
– When physical (social) distancing is not possible (i.e. it is not possible to consistently maintain at least 2 metres or 6 feet from others) in areas of community transmission (e.g. grocery stores and public transit), it is recommended to wear a non-medical mask or face covering.– People caring for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.
– When physical (social) distancing is not possible (i.e. it is not possible to consistently maintain at least 2 metres or 6 feet from others) in areas of community transmission (e.g. grocery stores and public transit), it is recommended to wear a non-medical mask.

Table of Contents

  1. Medical Masks
  2. Non-Medical Masks or Face Coverings
  3. References
1. Medical Masks

Medical masks include surgical, medical procedure face masks, and respirators, like N95 masks.1 Medical masks should be prioritized for medical personnel.1,5 

The Public Health Agency of Canada and the World Health Organization recommend that medical masks should be worn by health workers, people caring for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, and individuals with COVID-19 symptoms.1,3 If medical masks are unavailable for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms and caregivers of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the use of non-medical masks.1 

While the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends the use of medical masks by health workers, individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, and caregivers of individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, the World Health Organization recommends that individuals 60 years and older as well as individuals with pre-existing medical conditions should wear medical masks when physical (social) distancing is not possible in areas of community transmission.3 

Safety when wearing a medical mask:

Source: World Health Organization
2. Non-medical masks or face coverings

A non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the chance of others coming into contact with your respiratory droplets.1 The CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada, and World Health Organization now recommend wearing a non-medical mask or face covering when consistent physical (social) distancing is not possible in a public setting, such as when grocery shopping or using public transit.2,3,5

According to the CDC, Public Health Agency of Canada, and World Health Organization, non-medical masks and face coverings can be used as an additional public health measure.1,4,5

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon

Non-medical masks and face coverings should NOT:

  • Be placed on children under age 2
  • Be placed on anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Be placed on anyone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance
  • Be placed on pets
  • Be made out of non-breathable materials, such as plastic
  • Be made out of materials that can easily fall apart
  • Be secured with inappropriate materials, such as tape
  • Be shared with others
  • Impair vision or your ability to carry out tasks

Non-medical masks and face coverings can become contaminated on the outside, or when touched by your hands. If you do touch your mask/face covering or face, you should immediately wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Change a cloth mask as soon as it gets damp or soiled:1,2

  • Cloth masks can be safely sterilized/cleaned using a washing machine. Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
  • If the shape of the mask is maintained after washing and drying thoroughly, you can reuse the cloth mask.

Please refer to public health agency recommendations in your jurisdiction.

Safety when wearing non-medical masks and face coverings:

From the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

Videos: Proper use of non-medical masks

Source: Public Health Agency of Canada

How to wear a non-medical mask or face covering safely:

Source: The Public Health Agency of Canada
3. References 
  1. Public Health Agency of Canada. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.html  
  2. Pan-Canadian Public Health Network. Use of non-medical cloth masks or face coverings in community settings. http://www.phn-rsp.ca/sac-covid-ccs/wearing-masks-community-eng.php
  1. World Health Organization. WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 5 June 2020. https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/detail/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing-on-covid-19—5-june-2020
  2. World Health Organization. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Pandemic. https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses  
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Disclaimer: The information regarding COVID-19 is changing constantly as more data become available. The information provided in this website is not meant to replace diabetes healthcare team or public health agencies recommendations, and is intended for information purposes only. Please check with your healthcare providers for any deviations from your care plans.


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