COVID-19: Information on Masks

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Here is a collection of resources about appropriate mask use to best protect from the risk of infection. 

Masks for Albertans Program

Albertans are encouraged to wear non-medical masks in public places or if they have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

Wearing a homemade or non-medical mask in public is another tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. It hasn’t been proven that masks protect the person wearing it, but it can help protect people from being exposed to your germs.

Masks should complement – not replace – other prevention measures. Continue physical distancing and good hand hygiene, and stay home when sick.

When to use a mask

  • When you’re in public and might come within 2 metres of others for a prolonged period of time: public transit, retail stores, hair salons
  • When you’re in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household
  • Masks are mandatory for Grade 4 to 12 students and all school staff, as part of the school re-entry plan
  • When mask use is mandatory by municipal bylaw, check your local community for details

When not to use a mask

  • If it’s dirty or damaged in any way
  • If it gaps or doesn’t fit well
  • If it’s been used by another person
  • Children under 2 years of age
  • Anyone that has trouble breathing
  • When you are only with people from your own household

Government of Canada: Non-medical masks and face coverings

Public health officials make recommendations for wearing masks based on a number of factors. These factors include rates of infection and/or transmission in the community. In some jurisdictions, the use of masks is now mandatory in many indoor public spaces and on public transit. Check with your local public health authority on the requirements for your location.

Proper material, structure and fit

Well-designed and well-fitting masks or face coverings can prevent the spread of your infectious respiratory droplets. They may also help protect you from the infectious respiratory droplets of others.

How well a mask or face covering works depends on the materials used, how the mask is made, and most importantly, how well it fits.

A mask or face covering can be homemade or purchased, and should:

  • be made of at least 3 layers
    • 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
    • the third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric
  • be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
  • allow for easy breathing
  • fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
  • be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
  • be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • maintain its shape after washing and drying

Filters

Filters add an extra layer of protection against COVID-19 by trapping small infectious particles. Consider wearing a mask that includes a filter or filter material as one of its layers, such as:

  • non-woven polypropylene fabric, which can be found as:
    • a craft fabric
    • the non-woven fabric that's used to make some reusable shopping bags
  • a disposable filter inserted into a pocket on the mask

Check out how to make your own face covering with a filter.

Reusable masks with a non-woven filter layer should be washed daily, and can be washed multiple times. Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer.

People at higher risk of exposure and more severe illness

If you're at higher risk of more severe illness if you get COVID-19 or exposure to COVID-19 because of your work or living situation, you should wear a non-medical mask or face covering that includes a layer of filter fabric or a replaceable filter.

Consider wearing a medical mask if one is available to you.

Medical masks are face coverings that make medical claims of reducing or preventing COVID-19 for the user. They're regulated as Class I medical devices.

Marketplace tested over 20 different masks - CBC News - November 13, 2020

Wearing a mask is critical to reducing the spread of COVID-19, but rigorous tests conducted on behalf of CBC's Marketplace found that while some work very well, others offer little protection from the particles that transmit the novel coronavirus. One type of mask can even spread those particles to others.

Months into the pandemic, there are still no standards for consumer masks. So Marketplace opted to compare more than two-dozen masks to what is commonly considered the gold standard in protecting health-care workers from infectious diseases like COVID-19 — the N95 mask. 

Marketplace purchased the masks in stores and online from a variety of sellers. The masks were also made out of varying materials and featured different designs. Marketplace put the masks through the rigorous National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standard test, conducted at a lower air-flow regimen to reflect normal breathing. The test is usually reserved for N95s and personal protective equipment (PPE) intended for health-care workers. A standard NIOSH aerosol test measures filtration efficiency, meaning the quantity of particles the mask filters out as the wearer breathes in. 

Results

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