Wearing mask without also hand washing can be source of spread, says health officer

As stores start to reopen, the region's acting medical officer of health is suggesting people use non-medical masks as a way to keep from spreading COVID-19 but must also practice frequent hand washing to be safe.
Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang, Region of Waterloo acting medical officer of health, says the use of non-medical masks can help stop COVID-19 spread but without frequent hand washing they can provide a false sense of security. (Francois Vigneault/Radio Canada)

Waterloo region's acting medical officer of health said Monday that people heading out into the community can wear masks in public as more businesses such as hardware stores, garden centres and others open up for curbside pickup, but without also practicing frequent hand washing the masks may lull people into a false sense of security.

If people keep touching them without hand washing, "the masks can actually be a source of spread," Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Monday. 

About 22 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Waterloo region are from community spread.

Don't fiddle 

Wang says non-medical masks help protect others, similar to sneezing or coughing into an elbow or sleeve. They do not protect people from contracting COVID-19, she said. 

"You have to be careful with masks," she said, "... careful it does not lead you to increase the number of times you touch your face, such as to adjust or fiddle with your mask."

She said "diligent hand washing" is necessary before and after you put on or adjust a mask.

Wang also asked people to avoid using medical-grade masks, as those should be kept available for health-care workers.


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