COVID-19: There are growing calls for people to switch to N95 masks in BC

Lawyer group says the province’s health officer is relying on outdated knowledge to dismiss the need for higher quality masks

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VICTORIA – An increasing number of health experts are demanding that the province upgrade to use N95 masks in all health environments and encourage members of the public to do the same.

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Last week, the province’s health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, “it’s inevitable” that everyone in BC will be exposed to the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

Now, an independent group of doctors, health scientists, political specialists and community advocates said Henry should do more to prevent it by ordering the wearing of higher-quality respirators.

“I do not think anyone should say that it is inevitable that everyone gets Omicron. If we do not respond by following science, we will. We should respond to science and have everyone wear a higher quality mask as a N95 or equivalent respirator, ”said Dr. Lyne Filiatrault, a retired emergency room physician and member of Save Our Province BC

It is the latest group to demand that the province change its policy and demand that all health professionals and visitors to health facilities wear N95 masks. Currently, they are forced to remove N95s and use medical masks instead.

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Medical masks, also called surgical masks, are multilayer paper or fabric masks that protect against large drops of sputum or blood. N95 respirators, although usually less comfortable to wear, offer much higher filtration levels, blocking most small aerosol particles.

BC Nurses’ Union, BC Teachers Federation and BC COVID-19 modeling group have also advocated for the use of the N95 respirator.

Henry rejected their claims, saying the current policy allows N95s in environments where they are needed, such as on COVID-19 wards and intensive care units.

Filiatrault said Henry’s belief is based on outdated knowledge.

“They do not recognize that 60 percent of the transmission occurs before symptoms, and some people never get symptoms. So symptom control at the door does not work, nor is wearing a useless surgical mask,” she said. dozens of studies proving that transmission occurs through aerosols and not via droplets. Dr. Henry is stuck in dogmas, and the sad thing is that it costs lives. “

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BC said Monday that there have been 9,332 new COVID-19 infections in the three days since New Year’s Eve. It did not say if there were any new deaths, nor did it update hospitalization rates. Henry will provide an update Tuesday afternoon.

While the province is stepping up its booster vaccination campaign, some health professionals are also concerned about the use of surgical masks at vaccine clinics.

On Friday, Health Minister Adrian Dix urged retired nurses, retired doctors and first aiders to sign up to work in vaccine clinics.

But Filiatrault’s group said it could be more difficult to recruit them, as those on the front lines claim the right to wear N95 respirators before working in vaccine clinics.

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“We have emails from nurses, doctors and others doing other work in vaccine clinics who say they are now starting to feel uncomfortable working now that we know the virus is being transmitted through aerosols and they are not getting N95, “said Filiatrault.

Dr. Victor Leung, for example, decided not to offer his services at vaccination clinics after being told he would not be allowed to wear his N95 mask.

“It seems very strange that I would not be allowed to wear a higher level of protection, which, as a BC health worker, has been fit-tested for me,” he told CTV News. “It is very clear now that the dominant mode of transmission is through inhalation of particles or aerosols that have the virus.”

Last week, Henry insisted that N95 respirators are not needed in vaccine clinics.

“Vaccination clinics are not high-risk clinics for COVID infection,” she said. “So a respirator – it’s probably one of the smallest places you would require it.”

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