Amid concerns about the spread of the Omicron COVID-19, people are being encouraged to opt for layered masks such as surgical masks or a N95 mask over cloth masks to better prevent transmission of the virus.
It’s the manufacture of the N95 mask and its various layers that have been shown in a number of different investigations to be about 95 per cent effective at removing particles the size of viruses, clinical microbiologist and head of clinical microbiology at Royal University Hospital, Dr. Joseph Blondeau said Friday.
This means that if you encounter those virus particles, the masks would be about 95 per cent effective at preventing you from inhaling them, he explained. But that’s only one part of the story — fit is the other.
People generally make two mistakes wearing masks: wearing them below their nose and having gaps between the mask and sides of their face, Blondeau said.
“With the Omicron variant, we know it’s much more highly contagious than say previous versions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Having that extra layer of protection is being seen as being appropriate,” he said.
Blondeau says wearing doubled surgical masks is recommended if an N95 mask is not available.
The Government of Canada’s official guidance is that while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection.
“There are currently no standards for non-medical masks in Canada. Medical masks and respirators sold in Canada are required to meet established standards for filtration, breathability and fluid resistance,” it’s guidance on masking says.
In general, the denser the material and the more layers there are the less likely the virus can get through, Blondeau said.
Currently, the provincial public health order requires wearing of face masks in all indoor public spaces.
Blondeau also recommends vaccinations, which he says is “our way forward in this pandemic.” He’s asking anyone who has yet to be vaccinated to start their vaccine series, and those eligible for a booster dose to get those as well.
The provincial COVID-19 data dashboard, which provides information such as the number of new reported COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations, will not be updated until Tuesday, Dec. 28.
As of Dec. 23, a total of 148 Omicron cases were reported, including 27 confirmed and 121 probable cases detected through screening. On Thursday, 194 new COVID-19 cases were reported.