Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, has advised people to wear masks as hospitals struggle with an increase in respiratory virus cases.
Tam said using masks is a layer of protection against the spread of respiratory viruses.
“If it’s added to the other layers of protection, including vaccination, then it might actually make a difference in terms of dampening the surge so that the hospitals can cope just a little bit better,” Tam said in a news conference Thursday.
Some doctors, scientists and hospital officials in Ontario and Manitoba have asked public health officials to bring back mask mandates as hospitals are overwhelmed by cases of flu, COVID-19and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.
Both RSV and influenza or flu have increased above seasonal levels, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s latest FluWatch report.
Staffing shortages and other factors are also putting pressure on hospitals, doctors say. Some pediatric hospitals in particular are hard hit as demand exceeds supply for medications to relieve pain and fever in young children.
It is up to provincial authorities to decide about mask mandates in their own context, Tam said. But she and her counterparts across the country recommend layering the protection of wearing a mask in crowded places, particularly if they are poorly ventilated.