Since the start of the pandemic, masks have become commonplace. Masks used to be reserved mainly for health care professionals, but now these essential tools in the fight against COVID‑19 are being worn on the streets, in shops, and on public transportation.
Mandatory masks or face coverings: public health recommendations
The Institut national de santé publique du Québec prescribes to worn masks or face coverings in public places where it is difficult to avoid close contact with others to reduce the risk of transmission. However, the situation may change quickly.
Masks or face coverings will be mandatory when taking public transportation or in indoor or partially covered public settings, such as restaurants, arenas, libraries, and grocery stores.
Common areas, such as lobbies and elevators, are also on this list.The government strongly recommends wearing a face covering in other public places where it is difficult to maintain a two‑metre physical distance from others.
Wearing a face cover is recommended, but not mendatory, for children aged 2 to 12 years. It is not recommended for children under 2 years of age as well as for people with a particular health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask (for example, those unable to put on or take off a mask on their own).
If you have to go to a clinic or hospital, ideally wear a surgical mask, otherwise wear a face cover.
You will probably be given a surgical mask to replace your face cover when you arrive, especially if you have symptoms associated with COVID‑19.
For more details on this obligation, visit the corresponding government web page.
What masks provide the best protection during COVID‑19?
Respirators (or N95 respirators)
By filtering at least 95 percent of airborne particles of 0.3 microns or more, respirators (or N95 respirators) offer effective protection from COVID-19—when worn properly! For example, if you have a beard, you’ll need to be freshly shaved to ensure an adequate seal. What’s more, a seal check is required to ensure the N95 respirator fits your face.
N95 masks are reserved for health care workers.
Surgical (or procedure) masks
Surgical (or procedure) masks provide less protection against COVID‑19 because, unlike N95 respirators, they do not block small particles. However, when worn properly, they can reduce the spread of your own saliva and respiratory droplets.
Currently, surgical masks are worn by health care providers and essential service workers who have to work within two metres of one another. If you have symptoms associated with COVID‑19, you may also be required to wear a surgical mask when you arrive at a clinic or hospital.
Note that some masks sold on transactional sites may look like procedure masks, but they do not meet the same standards and requirements as the masks sold in pharmacies.
Non‑medical masks (or face coverings)
Available in different styles, models, and fabrics, non‑medical masks (or face coverings) are designed primarily to protect others by reducing the amount of droplets released in the air. They do not protect you from COVID-19.
In addition to being mandatory when using public transportation, non‑medical masks should be worn in closed or partially covered public places and other public places where two‑metre distancing isn’t possible.
Whether you decide to make a mask yourself or buy one from an artisan, make sure it is made of at least two layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton). Some models also have a pocket for a filter, making them even more effective.
How to wear, adjust, remove, and wash your cloth face covering or non‑medical mask
Before putting on your face covering, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. Make sure your hair is pulled back, then place the face covering over your nose and mouth with one hand. Then, use your other hand to secure it to your head or ears with the ties or elastics.
When adjusting your mask, make sure that your nose and mouth are fully covered. Tighten the mask until there are no gaps between your face covering and your skin. Make sure it’s not too tight and that you can see properly.
If you accidentally touch your mask while wearing it, wash your hands. Do not let the mask hang from your neck or an ear.
It is recommended that you change your mask when it is soiled, wet or damaged. Wash your hands properly before removing it. Remove the mask by undoing the ties or lifting off the elastics from behind your head or ears. Avoid touching the front of the mask. If you plan to re-use it in the next few hours, store the mask in a paper bag or other breathable container. Wash your hands after removing the face covering.
You can put your cloth face covering in the washing machine or wash it by hand with hot water. Allow it to dry completely before using your mask again.
Are face shields really effective?
Face shields shouldn’t be worn without other protective equipment. In fact, small particles may penetrate under the shield and reach your mouth or nose. They are supplemental protective equipment that serve as eye protection, and should be worn with a mask.
The Institut national de santé publique (in French only) also recommends that workers wear only a face shield as a last resort, when wearing a mask is impossible.
What your pharmacist can do
In addition to giving you tips on how to wear your mask, your pharmacist can answer your questions about the coronavirus or your health in general. If your pharmacy carries masks, your pharmacist can help you choose the right model for you.
If you do not need to go in person, call the pharmacist during your pharmacy’s opening hours.
Most Brunet‑affiliated pharmacies offer delivery services.
While masks reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, remember that they do not replace other preventive measures. To protect yourself and others, wash your hands regularly, respect physical distancing when possible, and most importantly, stay home and self-isolate if you have COVID‑19 symptoms.