A medical worker wearing a single protective glove and a face mask walks past a line of workers and visitors waiting to be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the main entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

A medical worker wearing a single protective glove and a face mask walks past a line of workers and visitors waiting to be tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, at the main entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

B.C. health officer says homemade masks may prevent spread of COVID-19 to others

Practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are proven methods

B.C.’s provincial health officer says wearing homemade or non-medical masks may prevent people from spreading droplets that cause COVID-19, but wearing a mask likely does little to protect a person from the virus.

Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is moving towards supporting more extensive use of masks by people during the pandemic.

“This is something we’ve been considering as well, knowing what’s been going on around the world,” she said at a news conference.

A study by researchers in Singapore estimates that about 10 per cent of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered its flu-like symptoms. That then prompted American health officials to change how it defined the risk of infection.

Canadian public health officials, including Henry, have previously said people who are feeling well do not need to wear masks in public.

Henry said practising physical distancing, frequent hand washing and resisting touching your face are the proven methods to prevent transmission of the novel coronavirus.

“If you are going to wear them, it can help reduce droplets you shed into the environment and if somebody is infected and has mild symptoms or is early on in the illness it can prevent you from putting those droplets out,” she said. “That’s probably OK.”

But Henry said the homemade or non-medical masks are not proven to provide the wearer “with any protection.”

ALSO READ: A look at some of the B.C. inventors creating life-saving tools in fight against COVID-19

She said the supply of approved medical masks and respirators is tenuous and must be reserved for medical workers, COVID-19 patients and others working in health care.

Henry warned that at-home COVID-19 testing kits have not been proven to work.

“There’s no at-home testing kits that have been validated that I am aware of,” she said. “The problem is they have false-positive and false-negative tests out there now. There’s potentially a role for these at some point. There’s none right now that are good enough to be used in our communities.”

Henry said the province is holding its own in the fight against COVID-19, but there are several more critical weeks to go before restrictions can be lifted. She said any reductions in restrictions will have to be done in a way that prevents the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

She said Tuesday B.C.’s ban on gatherings of over 50 people and closures of restaurants and bars could be in place until summer. She also said a second wave on the virus could arrive in the fall.

Henry said she expects to publicly introduce an ethical framework in the coming days to guide doctors and others who may have to make life-and-death decisions about patients during the pandemic.

“Part of that is the structure for how those decisions will be made so that no single individual clinician or health-care worker will have to make those entirely terrible decisions on their own,” she said. “It will be done within a framework that respects the value of every individual life.”

Coast Mountain Bus Company, which operates over 96 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s bus service, said Wednesday that two of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

It said one person works in the Burnaby transit centre and a Port Coquitlam bus operator has disclosed that they tested positive.

The company said all workplaces the employees came into contact with have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

— with files from The Associated Press

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dallas Lajimodiere is wanted by the Abbotsford Police Department.
Man wanted by Abbotsford Police domestic violence unit

Dallas Lajimodiere has three arrest warrants, including for assault with a weapon

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

Grade 6 students at Eugene Reimer Middle School have been participating in the Equity Backpack Project. (Submitted photo)
Equity Backpack Project in Abbotsford addresses inclusion and anti-racism

Grade 6 teacher Nerlap Sidhu says she wants students to develop ‘strong sense of self’

The UFV Cascades women’s basketball program has announced the signing of Langley’s Esther Allison and Edmonton’s Charley Arnold for 2021. (UFV Cascades photo)
Langley’s Allison, Edmonton’s Arnold signed by UFV Cascades

Women’s basketball program adds pair of recruits for 2021, reporting to Abbotsford later this year

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read