Cloth masks won't protect you as well as social distancing, B.C.'s top doctor warns - InfoNews

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Cloth masks won't protect you as well as social distancing, B.C.'s top doctor warns

Veronica Stephens is one of the many people who has suddenly been overwhelmed with orders for face masks.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED / Veronica Stephens
April 07, 2020 - 8:00 AM

Veronica Stephens had some time on her hands Sunday night, so she found a pattern for face masks and started sewing. 

Once a few were completed, she posted them online on her West Kelowna community Facebook page, with an offer to trade them for a donation.

Then, like that, all that extra time disappeared.

“It’s been quite overwhelming, I started doing it yesterday out of sheer boredom,” she said. “My phone hasn’t stopped going, all day. Now I will sit there at my machine and hammer out what I can while I can.”

She said she can put together one mask in about ten to 15 minutes, depending on whether the fabric needs to be cut. She needs to make 40 by tonight to meet the first round of requests, and if materials remain she’ll keep going.

“I’m sure if I make them, people will order them,” she said.

And, she said, she’s open to a donation but northing more.

“I’m just happy to help out,” Stephens said. “I’m fortunate enough that I can still work a bit right now so I am happy to help out.”

She also wants to stress that these are not medical grade masks, so they won’t block the virus from coming in. They may assist to stop the spread from those who may be ill.

“I really don’t want to create a false sense of security with these,” she said.

That’s also the message that the country’s highest health officials are pushing.

Canada’s top doctor Theresa Tam said April 6 there is growing evidence that people infected with COVID-19 are able to transmit the virus before they develop symptoms. There is also emerging evidence that some people who have the virus but never develop symptoms are able to transmit the virus as well.

“Wearing a non-medical mask, even if you have no symptoms, is an additional measure that you can take to protect others around you in situations where physical distancing is difficult to maintain, such as in public transit or maybe in the grocery store,” Tam said.

That said, B.C.’s provincial health officer Bonnie Henry also cautioned that social distancing is still the best way to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“It’s not a recommendation, it’s a permissive use, if you will,” Henry said about the federal change in tack when it comes to masks.

“This virus can’t jump six feet. When you are outside and maintaining physical distance we know it works. Proven things, like not touching your face and eyes, covering your mouth when you cough, washing your hands and maintaining a safe distance work.”

That said, a handmade cloth face covering for short term can protect others around you from your droplets.

“It’s not going to protect you … but it’s like coughing into your sleeve,” she said. “It’s not an alternative to the things we know work, but in those places where you might not be able to maintain safe distance for the whole time it’s an option for people.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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