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In today's Morning Brief, we look at the changing guidance on masks from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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Canada's mask guidance has changed. Here's why you might need an upgrade

Now that the cold weather has hit and people are moving inside, many doctors and scientists are urging Canadians not only to resist getting complacent about wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 — but also to take a closer look at whether that cloth mask is keeping you and others as safe as possible.

"In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection," the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) said on its COVID-19 mask information web page, which was updated on Nov. 12.

The updated guidance also recommends medical masks or respirators for people "who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19" and those "at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation."

Respirators — such as N-95 and KN-95 masks — are considered the highest level of mask protection and were previously recommended only for health-care workers coming into direct contact with infectious patients. In those high-risk areas, respirators require a "fit test."


WATCH | Respirators are considered the highest level of mask protection: 

Should N-95s become the new mask standard?

14 days ago
Duration 1:59

But in a nod to more general use, PHAC's guidance now says: "A respirator worn in the community doesn't need to have been formally fit tested, as is required in some occupational settings."

In addition to the updated online guidance, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, recently posted a series of tweets illustrating how COVID-19 could spread through the air, using the analogy of second-hand smoke. 

Many doctors, scientists and engineers say this shift in messaging reflects a growing body of evidence suggesting that COVID-19 is largely spread through aerosols (tiny particles that can hang in the air), and not just through respiratory droplets (larger particles) transmitted by close contact with an infected person. 

"This marks a transition in Canada toward a recognition of how important aerosol, airborne-based transmission is in transmission of this virus," said Dr. Brooks Fallis, a critical care physician at the Toronto-area William Osler Health System. Read more on this story here.

Rare quartet of wild dog species captured by Alberta photographer

(Mike Borlé)

Two swift foxes peer back at amateur wildlife photographer Mike Borlé near Medicine Hat, Alta. Borlé has captured images of the so-called canid quadfecta. He got shots of the red fox and the coyote, two species that can be seen all over Alberta, but also a grey wolf — ranging hundreds of kilometres from its usual habitat  — and swift foxes, which are on the endangered list. Check out his photos here.

In brief

In one of its first acts since the return of Parliament, the federal government has tabled legislation to create a suite of new, more selective pandemic support programs. The Liberal government says the change represents a more targeted approach to economic recovery that will carry Canada through the next phase of pandemic. "I see this legislation as very much the last step in our COVID support programs," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Chrystia Freeland said Wednesday. "It is what I really hope and truly believe is the final pivot." Freeland said positive recent developments — including high vaccination rates, the return of children to schools and the country's continued economic recovery — mean the broad government supports offered last year are no longer necessary. The new support programs include measures meant to help individual workers and industries that have been slow to recover from the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Read the full story here.

Brett Diederichs's last words were spoken in the way his sister says he spoke throughout his entire life: to help someone else. Diederichs, 36, was standing on the main highway outside of Lillooet, B.C., with his mother when he realized a mudslide was charging down the hill above them. In an instant, he shouted at his mother. "They heard a really intense, loud rumble. The ground shook. The last thing my mom remembers is my brother screaming, 'Mom, get back in your car.' Which she did, just in the nick of time," Kirsten Diederichs, Brett's older sister, said Wednesday. "My brother just couldn't make it back. He was immediately lost." The Diederichs family has identified Brett, a trained paramedic and well-known figure in Toronto's restaurant scene, as the fifth person believed to have been killed by a landslide Nov. 15 in an area of B.C.'s Highway 99. Read more about Diederichs here

WATCH | Brett Diederichs was killed in a mudslide near Lillooet, B.C.: 

Lost in the floods: Brett Diederichs

14 days ago
Duration 2:03

Nearly two years after launching an inquiry into thousands of complaints from airline passengers claiming they were wrongly denied compensation for delayed flights, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) has issued a decision. However, affected passengers must still wait for a resolution. That's because instead of attempting to resolve the complaints, the CTA has directed airlines to reconsider the passengers' request for compensation based on new guidance the agency has provided. The new guidance covers what situations are considered within an airline's control, involving matters such as crew shortages, computer outages and maintenance. The CTA said passengers whose cases remain unresolved despite the new guidance can contact the agency by Feb. 15, 2022, for help in reaching a resolution. Read more about the compensation issue here.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney is standing by his accusation that environmentalist David Suzuki was inciting violence with his comments at a climate change protest over the weekend. The premier first made the claim in a tweet that linked to a National Post article, which quoted Suzuki as saying: "There are going to be pipelines blown up if our leaders don't pay attention to what's going on." Suzuki made the comments amid a "Funeral for the Future" protest in Victoria on Saturday, organized by the environmental group Extinction Rebellion. On Tuesday, Kenney reiterated that he believes Suzuki is implicitly inciting people to eco-terrorism. Suzuki told CBC News he does not condone blowing up pipelines, but that he suggested he fears it may happen if groups get fed up with inaction. "Our leaders are not listening to the urgency that is demanded to meet the issue of climate change. And I was worried that this is just the next step — if it goes on — to people blowing up pipelines," he said. Read more on Kenney's comments here

WATCH | Premier defends Twitter comments: 

David Suzuki's comments on pipeline anger 'totally irresponsible,' says Alberta's premier

16 days ago
Duration 3:47

Afghan refugee children who arrived in the Waterloo, Ont., region months ago are spending their days in a hotel rather than in class — because the public school board says students need a permanent address in order to register. The problem is compounded by what newcomers say are inadequate necessities as they wait to be placed, a situation a local settlement organization blames on the chaotic nature of the evacuation from Afghanistan. Lynne Griffiths-Fulton, interim CEO of Reception House, a Kitchener, Ont.-based organization that receives federal funding to help refugees resettle in Canada, said school registration is a "long-standing systemic issue." The Waterloo Region District School Board typically needs a permanent address to register a student. The address determines which school the child could attend. The board said it's aware of the issue and the effect it's having on newcomers. In an emailed statement, the board said it's trying to help students start school as quickly as possible while they wait for permanent accommodation. Read more on this story here.

Winnipeg-based entrepreneur Obby Khan started as an online portal that allows shoppers to browse products and services from local businesses, bundle them together and have them delivered to their door. The initiative has been such a success that he's taking the concept into the bricks-and-mortar world of retail this season, opening a physical store in Winnipeg's Exchange District. Khan's sales pitch and motivation at launch was simple: People want to support local businesses whenever they can, so let's make it as easy as possible to do so, at a time when they need it the most. Supply chain issues caused by COVID-19 have walloped the markets for everything from toilet paper to semiconductors and lumber. But Khan says most of the local businesses he works with have managed to stickhandle their way through, because they tend to use locally sourced supplies themselves. Read more on how some businesses are avoiding supply chain issues

Now for some good news to start your Thursday: A Labrador man is being hailed as a wildlife hero after rescuing a snowy owl from the cold waters of Little Lake, near North West River, while kayaking on Friday. Billy Gauthier was taking advantage of a lull in the late fall winds for a paddle down the lake, and expecting a peaceful jaunt on the water. Then he noticed a group of ravens hot on an owl's tail, dive-bombing the bird repeatedly. He and his paddling partner watched in horror as the ravens pushed the owl so close to the water's surface that she fell in. Gauthier drifted closer, gently trying to lift the owl up out of the water with his paddle and guide her toward the bow of the kayak. She grabbed onto the boat, and hauled herself out of the lake. "She just sat there in front of me for about 15 minutes," he said. "We just kept making eye contact, and I'll never forget those incredible yellow eyes staring right at me. It was unbelievable." Read more and check out the photos of the owl rescue here. 

First Person: I'm Chinese Romanian. It took moving to Toronto to meet someone like me

Chinese-Romanian chef Haan Palcu-Chang connects with both his cultures through food. Aside from his sister, he'd never met another Chinese-Romanian person until CBC Toronto reporter Angelina King reached out for an interview. Read the story by King here.

Front Burner: Where — and how — is Peng Shuai?

After Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai posted a sexual assault allegation against a former top Communist Party official on social media, the post — and Peng — disappeared. 

In the weeks that followed, the Women's Tennis Association and the sport's top athletes joined the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai, including Naomi Osaka, Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Even the UN called for proof of her safety.

Now, Chinese state-run broadcasters have tweeted a supposed email along with photos and videos as evidence of her safety. The International Olympic committee says it had an interview with Peng where she reassured them of her well-being.

Today on Front Burner, Racquet publisher and co-founder Caitlin Thompson explains why China's moves have done little to calm fears for Peng's autonomy, and why this is a crucial moment for sports to re-examine their relationship with China. 

Chinese-Romanian chef meets the only other Chinese-Romanian he’s heard of: a CBC Toronto reporter

15 days ago
Duration 5:24

Today in history: November 25

1885: Rocky Mountains Park is established at Banff, Alta. It was the first national park in Canada and only the third in the world. It is now called Banff National Park.

1914: Baseball player Joe Di Maggio is born in Martinez, Calif. His 56-game hitting streak in 1941 endures as one of the most remarkable records in baseball or any sport.

1985: Ontario Attorney General Ian Scott and federal Indian Affairs Minister David Crombie announce a $16.7-million settlement deal to compensate two northern Ontario Indigenous bands for mercury pollution that devastated their communities.

2009: Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout and an Australian colleague are freed 15 months after they were abducted in Somalia.

With files from The Canadian Press, The Associated Press and Reuters

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