Advocacy groups call on B.C.’s top doctor to recommend N95 masks

Advocacy groups call on B.C.'s top doctor to recommend N95 masks
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With COVID cases exploding on Vancouver Island and in the province, N95 masks are in high demand, but tough to find.

The Omicron variant is believed to be more easily transmissible than previous strains of the virus, so advocacy groups are calling for more widespread use of this type of mask.

“I think we need to be throwing the kitchen sink at this right now,” said Dr. Amy Tan, spokesperson with the advocacy group, Protect our Province BC.

Tan said the group wants the province to mandate N95 masks for healthcare workers and the public.

“If a person is wearing an N95, you can be in the presence of an infected person for much longer. And not be at the same amount of risk if that infected person was either unmasked or wearing a medical mask,” Tan said.

READ MORE: What masks should people be wearing in light of the Omicron variant?

The BC Nurses’ Union, the BC Teachers Federation and the BC COVID-19 Modelling Group are also advocating for N95 use as COVID cases continue to spike.

Jason Tetro, a microbiogist, says N95 masks are made to the highest standard.

“If you are going to be spending a lot of time in any single environment, even if there is good ventilation, you want to make sure you have that seal. N95 will give it to you,” Tetro said.

N95 masks, fitted properly, are made to filter out 95 per cent of airborne particles.

READ MORE: Mask guidance changes as winter and the holiday season approaches

But Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said N95 masks are not necessary in most situations.

“I know some people have called for the increased use of respirators or N95s routinely, and I’ll just say in the majority of settings, the incremental benefit in a low-risk setting like a school or a retail store is minimal,” Henry said. “What is most important is that you have a good-fitting mask that you wear and you wear appropriately.”

For the public, it’s just a matter of finding them.

On Oak Bay Avenue, a woman wearing an N95 mask said it wasn’t easy to find them.

“It took several searches to find a mask. I didn’t want to buy fifty of them. I only wanted to buy maybe ten of them. That was difficult to do. But I found them.”

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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