FREDERICTON — At a Public Health press conference, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell advised wearing a mask in settings where physical distancing is not possible. However, wearing a face covering for an extended period of time does more harm than good, according to the province’s top doctor, CBC News reported.
“You should not wear masks all the time or even for extended periods,” she said at the press conference.
According to Dr. Russell, wearing the same mask for hours on end would entrap any germs and force the wearer to re-inhale them. “That can have unintended consequences,” she said.
Russell said this reminder was necessitated by the sight of many citizens wearing masks but neglecting physical distancing rules. “A mask is most effective when worn for a short time when two metres of physical distance cannot be maintained,” she said.
For those who are required to wear face coverings all day at the workplace, Russell recommends changing a surgical mask regularly, especially when it becomes wet. Reusable fabric masks should be cleaned using hot, soapy water.
The chief medical officer also cautioned that face coverings do not replace health and safety measures. Citizens should continue to obey proper hand hygiene and keep two metres apart from others in an enclosed public area. Russell also reminded people not to touch their face and remain at home when feeling unwell.
“It is important to keep in mind why you are wearing a mask,” she said. “And when and how it is used most effectively.”
Since the start of the pandemic, the efficacy of masks in curbing the spread of COVID-19 has been a hotly contentious topic.
In March 2020, before Québec enforced compulsory masking, the province’s public health director Horacio Arruda had advised the public against wearing masks unless they are sick, the Montreal Gazette reported.
Arruda said that masks give people a false sense of security when they may actually increase the chances of contracting the virus, namely as wearers readjust the mask — a habit that brings the hands close to the face and possibly transmit the disease.
“Don’t think that masks are the miracle solution,” he said. “They are useful for those who are sick to not contaminate others. It’s all about the hygiene of the hands.”
As Russell warned, masks get saturated with moisture from the mouth and nose after about 20 minutes. Once a mask is wet, it no longer forms a protective barrier against viruses.
In February this year, the city of Sarasota, Florida, lifted its mandatory masking policy against the advice of health experts, on the grounds that it was too “burdensome” for residents to obey and businesses to enforce.
Sarasota’s municipal government also said that it was not possible to discipline everyone who violated the masking rule.
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