To start….let’s be clear. We are not talking about the cute cloth face masks sold by Old Navy or Kate Spade, or the ones made by your sweet little old neighbor down the street (Did you know a lot of European countries have banned these?) We are talking about proper medical-grade masks – and no there is absolutely no worldwide shortage of these masks going on (as Amazon and Google would have you believe….but that story is for another day). There are actually plenty of first-class manufacturers located IN Canada and the USA making millions of proper medical-grade masks every single day.
Now we all know that wearing masks is one of the tools we have at our disposal to protect ourselves and those around us from contracting Covid-19. But just exactly what type of mask should you be wearing? With all of the options out there – 3 ply surgical masks, cloth masks, and N95 masks – the decision proves to be rather difficult.
According to Harvard Medical School Doctor, Dr. Abraar Karan MD, MPH, DTM&H, in an interview with Dr. Sanjay Gupta from CNN in January of 2021, Dr. Karan says “The US can END the Covid-19 pandemic if everyone wears N95 masks.” He goes on to say “We know now that aerosols spread best when there is poor ventilation, crowding and close contact that is prolonged.” So then a question we have to ask ourselves is this: in Ontario where we have been mandated to wear a mask since July 2020 – why have we not been told to wear the PROPER kind of mask? Studies have shown that cloth masks can be as low as 26% effective; comparatively, the N95 mask is more than 95% effective. These studies have also shown that N95 masks are EVEN BETTER than the surgical masks our Doctors and nurses wear in hospitals, and our teachers wear while in school. That’s because the N95 mask has a secret weapon – a unique electrostatic filter – that traps neutral particles like bacteria or viruses and polarizes those particles before they can pass through the mask (CNN).
Dr. Karan explains that aerosols spread best when there is crowding, poor ventilation, and close contact that is prolonged. But wait…doesn’t this sound exactly like the environment in the schools we are sending our kids to? That being said – why are we not arming our teachers and our kids with proper N95 or N95 equivalent respirators? Instead in Ontario, we are providing our teachers with 3 ply surgical masks that more often than not are not even made in Canada or the USA. We have also threatened disciplinary action on teachers wanting to wear N95 equivalent masks instead of their 3 ply surgical masks provided by the school board (Link to article here https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/teacher-n95-mask-york-region-1.6207965 )
The former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, has been quoted saying “An N95 or equivalent mask offers the BEST protection.” If experts around the world are advocating for N95 mask usage, then why currently in Ontario hospitals, when I take my child to the ER, am I asked to remove my N95 mask, and to put on a 3 ply surgical mask as soon as you enter the building.
However…..we know that 3 ply surgical masks are way less effective at protecting you and those around you from airborne viruses like Covid-19. Knowing this, as we continue to experience hundreds of new Covid-19 cases every day in Ontario, why are we not arming people with the proper masks to help END this global virus pandemic?