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COVID-19: Face coverings strongly recommended by Toronto Public Health

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TORONTO, ON., May 20, 2020 — Today at their press conference, Toronto Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and Mayor John Tory strongly recommended that in order to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the public wear a face mask or face covering to protect others when in settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained. 

Toronto Public Health advises that wearing a face mask or face covering in public can help protect others from your germs. However, public health officials continue to stress that a face mask or face covering has not been proven to protect the person wearing it from COVID-19 and is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. 

The provincial and federal government are also recommending that people wear masks when out in public and they are unable to physically distance, particularly in public transit scenarios where it is a real challenge to physically distance and physical barriers like protective plexiglass do not exist. Anywhere, that keeping a minimum distance of 2 metres becomes a challenge it is recommended to wear a non-medical nose and mouth face covering.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has also recommended that individuals wear a face covering where physical distancing is not possible, such as on public transit or in a small grocery store or pharmacy. In order to assist people and reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19, the Ministry of Health released the following face covering recommendations:

Ontario recommends when and how to wear a face covering

Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape;

Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries;

Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two; anyone who has trouble breathing; and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Trudeau said he also will be wearing his mask when close to others particularly at Parliament.

Meanwhile, backing up with Dr. David Williams said, Toronto’s top doctor, Eileen de Villa agrees that wearing a face mask or face covering could help protect others from your germs while indoors, in spaces such as elevators, grocery and retail stores, on public transit, and in a taxi or ride share service where maintaining physical distancing may be a challenge.

“COVID-19 is a new virus that was only identified in January, and the reality is that we are still learning about it,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto Medical Officer of Health. Recently, we learned that COVID-19 can spread before someone has symptoms or is even aware that they have the infection. This is why I am updating my message to you today and strongly recommending that residents use face masks and face coverings to protect others against their germs, in settings where physical distancing isn’t possible. This will help to reduce virus spread and protect our community until a vaccine, or treatment is available.” 

Not recommended to wear masks when outside

If you are outside where there is plenty of space while walking or running, a face mask or face covering is not recommended. At this time, face masks or non-medical masks are not mandatory in Toronto. 

What sort of masks can you wear

Face masks and face coverings should allow for easy breathing, fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, maintain shape after washing and drying, include at least two layers of tightly woven cotton or linen and cover the nose and mouth without gaping. Masks should not be shared with others. Cloth masks should be washed after each use in a hot cycle and non-reusable masks should be discarded after use. 

Not everyone should wear a mask

Not everyone should wear a mask. This includes children under the age of two, anyone who has a medical condition that makes wearing a mask difficult, or who cannot remove the mask without assistance. 

Medical masks, including N-95 masks, should not be worn by the general public so the supply of medical masks is available for use as personal protective equipment for healthcare and frontline workers. 

Today, Mayor Tory announced that the City of Toronto will be leading by example on this issue. While the City already provides surgical masks and other pieces of personal protective equipment to employees who require it to do their jobs, we will also be encouraging our employees to wear face coverings when in situations where it is advisable, based on public health advice. 

To assist them in doing that, the City is beginning the process to secure over 100,000 reusable cloth masks to provide to our employees. 

Employees will be encouraged to use these face coverings in their daily activities including while riding on public transit. Until the ordered masks arrive in four to six weeks, City staff, like other members of the community, will be encouraged to continue to use their own facial coverings when they are in situations where it is not possible to maintain physical distancing. 

More information about the use of face coverings or non-medical masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is available at toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-protect-yourself-others/covid-19-reduce-virus-spread

SOURCE City of Toronto

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