With the N95 style respirator range growing, some say it’s time to update our masks

Since the beginning of the pandemic, masking recommendations in Canada have focused on the idea of ​​protecting others: my mask protects you, your mask protects me. However, contagious and potentially more dangerous variants of COVID-19 will ask if it’s time to upgrade so users can rely on their masks to keep themselves and others safe. Until recently, the supply of high quality masks like N95 respirators was limited so they were mostly reserved for frontline health workers. The public has been urged to rely on cloth masks to limit the potential spread of droplets containing the virus from the nose and mouth. The supply of N95 respirators for frontline medical workers has now caught up with demand in Canada and imports are more productive. As a result, the N95 and its international equivalents – such as the KN95 from China and the KF94 from Korea – are becoming more and more widely available to the average consumer. This has some proponents for its wider use in the community and is urging Health Canada to change its messages around which public clothing is masked. “In Canada we have always been reactive. We have always done things a little too late, a little too little,” said Dr. Kashif Pirzada, a Toronto ambulance doctor. Pirzada is the co-founder of a group called Masks4Canada, which campaigned for public masking to be mandatory at the start of the pandemic. More recently, the group has been co-writing an open letter to the government asking them to acknowledge what Masks4Canada, along with over 600 Canadian and international experts, see as the overwhelming amount of evidence that the virus is in the air. “It’s one of the best explanations for the spread. And if we remember a very related virus, SARS-CoV-1 was in the air too,” Pirzada said. “Even if it’s not in the air, we know it [COVID-19] is more transferable so that we can at least be more proactive and a higher quality mask can be helpful. I think that’s enough to really promote it now. “Dr. Kashif Pirzada, a Toronto ambulance, is the co-founder of a group called Masks4Canada that campaigned for public masking to be mandatory at the start of the pandemic. Now he would like to see N95 masks that Health Canada is using for wider public use should be recommended. (Dr. Kashif Pirzada) The Journal of American Medical Association, Internal Medicine, published a study in December 2020 that looked at how well different masks protect the person wearing Fit Filtration Efficiency (FFE) of various masks was measured using a device that detects particles behind the mask, with the following results: Three-layer cotton mask: FFE 26.5 percent non-woven polypropylene mask with fixed ear loops: FFE 28.6 percent Medical procedural masks (surgical mask) : FFE 38.5 percent N95 respirator: FFE 98.4 percent The study also found that the FFE of cloth and surgical mask en through modifications that improve the fit, such as B. Double masking o, can be increased r stow and knot a surgical mask. Other studies, including research by the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), show that the fit of N95 masks prevents air leakage. This is one of the reasons why they outperform many other surgical masks in filtering out droplets infected with COVID-19 virus. CLOCK | Why Your Masks Might Not Be As Protective As You Think: Pirzada says the wider use of N95-style masks could be key to stopping some of the outbreaks that are happening nationwide, such as the one at the Canada Post Facility in Mississauga, Ontario. , where 273 employees signed COVID-19 in January. “Hand out and need advanced masks like N95 in crowded or vulnerable workplaces and help people do common shopping and other things,” he said. What Pirzada is proposing may sound like a leap from Canada’s current masking policies and guidelines, but it is not unprecedented. Earlier this year, some countries in Europe began using N95-style masks in public, including the Czech Republic, the German state of Bavaria, and Austria. In Europe, these respirators are called FFP2 masks, named after the European filtration standard of 94 percent that they must meet. “The FFP2 mask provides better protection for the person wearing it, which is also an incentive to improve compliance,” said Dr. Katharine Reich, Chief Medical Officer of Austria, told CBC News. “We wanted to improve compliance because we often saw people wearing the masks on their noses and under their chins. The FFP2 masks are much more rigid, so wearing this mask properly is a lot easier.” Self-sufficiency with masks In Austria, FFP2 masks are required by people over the age of 14 in all public areas, including shops, public transport, nursing homes and schools. To ensure access for all citizens, Austrian grocery stores sell them for less than one euro, or around $ 1.50 each. The Austrian government also provides free masks to all over 65s, low-income people and homeless shelters. This was possible, says Dr. Rich, because Austria started producing its own FFP2 masks about six months ago. She says the country now has stable domestic supplies and enough to provide for all citizens. A man signs an allocation of FFP2 masks from a pharmacy in Germany. A number of European jurisdictions, including the German state of Bavaria, Austria, and the Czech Republic, have mandated the use of N95-style masks in public. (Annegret Hilse / Reuters) Canada is now approaching self-sufficiency with its own mask supply. Last March, the Canadian government called for action, urging Canadian companies and manufacturers to scale up and reequip their businesses to help fight COVID-19. More than 6,000 companies responded to the government’s call, and over 1,000 of them started making personal protective equipment (PPE), including Vitacore in Burnaby, BC. “I think it is in our national safety interest that we can produce locally, especially things like respirators that are only needed in such emergencies,” said Mikhail Moore, President of Vitacore. When the pandemic broke out, Moore used his technical background to build his mask-making facility from the ground up. He says the company now produces more than six million respirators a month. “With the scale-up, we are producing even more respiratory masks than the front-line employees currently need. We are therefore opening the doors to the general public so that they can also wear respiratory masks.” “Said Moore. Vitacore President Mikhail Moore, left, at his facility that now makes more than six million N95 masks each month in Burnaby, BC (Dillon Hodgin / CBC). They aren’t the only company that do the manufacturing Medicom in Montreal and Dent-X in Vaughan, Ontario say they also produce millions of dollars in N95 every month, and 3M says the new Brockville, Ontario facility will ship its first Canadian-made 3M N95 next month The Canadian Health Department continues to advise Canadians to wear cloth masks. “We encourage you to consider a three-layer, non-medical mask that includes a middle filter layer,” said Theresa Tam, chief public health officer a press conference in November 2020, and the recommendations have not changed since then. Only people with a higher risk of exposure or a more serious illness or fol If they become infected with COVID-19, they should wear a medical-grade surgical mask if one is available to them. When asked Health Canada why the guidelines haven’t changed, it said, “Public Health is aware of the recent discussion about the use of N95 in the community,” but added that it “won’t change its stance on masking … “since there is no evidence to justify a change. “Dr. Kashif Pirzada asks why Health Canada would not advise Canadians to wear the highest level of protection they can get.” We should only be the most careful and set boundaries [exposure] as much as we can, “he said.” We’re not far from mass vaccination. We only have to buy two to three months and then hopefully we’ll be there. “Watch the full episodes of The National on CBC Gem, the CBC’s streaming service.