As Canadian federal, provincial and territorial governments carefully and gradually reopen their economies, those taking public transit, returning to work or going out shopping are being urged to continue to adhere to public health advice as to the best line of defence against COVID-19. One of the recommendations being put forward is to wear a non-surgical/medical face-covering in public where physical distancing is not possible, and that may include the workplace.
When worn properly, a person wearing a non-medical mask or face covering can reduce the spread of his or her own infectious respiratory droplets.
To assist the public, all Canadian jurisdiction public health officials have released specific recommendations on how to choose, wear and care for appropriate face coverings used in public where physical distancing is not possible, along with additional safety measures for transit agencies.
The common theme of these recommendations is that wearing a homemade non-medical mask/facial covering in the community is recommended for periods of time when it is not possible to consistently maintain a 2-metre physical distance from others, particularly in crowded public settings, such as stores, shopping areas, workplaces and public transportation.
If you can’t predict whether you can maintain that two-metre distance, then it’s recommended that you wear the non-medical mask or facial covering. However, wearing a mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. Individuals must consistently and strictly adhere to good hygiene and public health measures, including frequent hand washing and physical (social) distancing.
There are no regulations specific to a fashion face covering or non-medical mask. However, it’s important to know that masks are assumed to be medical devices unless it is explicitly clear on the labelling that they are not intended for medical use. Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by healthcare workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill or people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care or picking up medication or groceries.
More information on the appropriate use of non-medical masks or face coverings by jurisdictions can be found by clicking on the following links:
- Federal government, click here.
- Ontario government, click here.
- Quebec government, click here.
- Alberta government click here.
- British Columbia government, click here.
- Saskatchewan government, click here and here.
- Manitoba and Nova Scotia rely on the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) guidelines.
- New Brunswick, click here.
- Newfoundland and Labrador, click here.
- Prince Edward Island, click here.
- Northwest Territories, click here and here.
- Nunavut, click here and here.
- Yukon, click here.
Again, and it is important to repeat, it is critical that employers continue to practice and encourage employee behaviours that public health officials have recommended are effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19:
- staying home and away from others when ill
- washing hands frequently
- covering your cough with tissues or your sleeve
- practising physical distancing
- cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects
- protecting those most at risk from the virus
Modifying the work environments or changing work routines can also reduce transmission of COVID-19. Measures such as using physical barriers (e.g., Plexiglas/transparent barriers), changing workflow and using spacing aids such as taped visual cues are examples of important and effective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19 in public spaces and or work environments.
The wearing of non-medical masks or cloth face coverings is an additional personal practice that can help to prevent the infectious respiratory droplets of an unknowingly infected person from coming into contact with other people outside the home.
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