Update: Thursday April 9 at 10:30 pm

Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam does not recommend the wearing of face masks in public. Referring to her advice as “permissive”, she indicates that masks add an extra layer to protect others, as the wearer may be contagious while showing no symptoms. She advises their use in settings where maintaining social distancing is difficult as when getting essentials or taking public transit.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to Coronavirus. The best advice to protect yourself and others is to stay home whenever possible. For necessities, try to have groceries, medications, and other needs delivered or dropped off by friends or relatives.

However, some seniors live where things cannot be delivered to their doors due to the current pandemic. They may have considered wearing homemade cloth masks when they leave their units. The Canadian Government’s website has a new webpage sharing information you may consider regarding the use of homemade masks to protect against COVID-19: Government recommendations on the use of homemade masks.

If you would like to wear a mask, but don’t sew, you can use a couple of rubber bands or hair elastics to make a no-sew mask as illustrated in this video.

If you sew, you can make your own cloth mask using one of these popular videos by Jenny Doan of the Missouri Star Quilt Company with elastic ear loops or with fabric ties.

The type of fabric you choose for your mask matters. According to research conducted by Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, high thread-count cotton fabrics do a better job filtering small particles while still allowing for breathability. Pillowcases, sheets, and dinner napkins are good sources of high-thread-count fabric. Knit fabrics, like most cotton t-shirts, are not as useful. If you don’t have high thread count cotton, consider sandwiching a layer of flannel between the lower-quality layers. You can read more about fabric types here.

To get the benefits of wearing a mask, remember the following tips:

– The mask should fit well (non-gaping)

– Don’t touch your face mask or eyes while you’re wearing the mask.

– Stay two metres away from other people even while you are masked.

– Put the mask directly into the washing machine (or a disposable bag) immediately after wearing, and wash on a hot or sanitize cycle. Dry thoroughly. Assume the mask has picked up contaminants while you were wearing it.

– Wash your hands thoroughly using soap with water for at least 20 seconds right after removing your mask.

– Never share your mask.

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Ross Knechtel

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