COVID-19: Some central Albertans calling for mask wearing to become mandatory

Phone, wallet, keys, face mask.

That could be the new checklist amid the COVID-19 pandemic if mask wearing becomes mandatory – a topic that’s being debated everywhere.

Didsbury family physician Shauna Craven is a supporter of the Masks4Canada movement.

The group recommends that mask wearing become mandatory in all indoor spaces outside of the home, such as schools and stores, among crowds (where distancing from others is difficult) and on public transit.

Craven is one of the more than 1,000 health professionals across Canada who have signed open letters to health officials.

The idea behind making masks mandatory is: My mask protects you, your mask protects me, we all protect society.

Craven said some studies show mandatory masking can significantly reduce the number of infections.

“When I go to the grocery store, I would say probably only 25 per cent of people are wearing masks, and I know people try very hard with social distancing guidelines, but I’ve been in situations where people are inadvertently breaking that distance, and it’s not intentional,” she said.

She said making masks mandatory wouldn’t mean we forget about the other measures in place, such as social distancing and frequent hand washing.

“It’s now just become the norm to quickly hand sanitize, take that pump as you walk into the store, and it’s just become a new routine for people. And all masking would do is add to that.”

The mother of three said she also supports the movement to protect our economies and to protect everyone in the community from potentially spreading the virus.

“I want to see people going to work, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes for that to continue to happen. I don’t want to go back to people being unemployed and businesses being shuttered.

“So if masking could be one part of the answer to that, I’m happy to do it.”

Craven sees mandatory masking as an opportunity to care for the most vulnerable, such as seniors and people of colour.

“People of colour are also at higher risk for severe outcome, so why wouln’t I want to protect the most vulnerable in our community?”

The idea is to protect and care for communities.

“I mask not to protect myself. I mask to prevent me from potentially spreading it. The thought that goes through my head is they care about me and I care about them.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, cited Toronto’s example of making mask wearing mandatory – a decision that was made Tuesday.

“Municipalities have the ability to look at their own epidemiology, their own circumstance, and if they feel a particular measure is appropriate in that particular context, then municipalities have the opportunity to go forward and put that in place,” she said.

“We are, of course, provincially, continuing to encourage all Albertans to wear masks in public indoor spaces, especially where they’re not able to consistently maintain two metres of distance.”

Red Deer’s Wayne and Doreen Berger also believe face coverings should be mandatory. The husband wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office as well as provincial premiers and health ministers across the country in March about the matter.

He believes masking will help prevent further cases, helping save lives until there is a permanent solution like a vaccine.

“We are chasing the wind until this is implemented,” he said.

The 72-year-old said if mask wearing had already been implemented, much of the damage by the virus could’ve been avoided.

“I believe we could’ve saved not only lives, but also the economic turbulence and a lot of grief for people who are related to the ones who we’ve lost.”



mamta.lulla@reddeeradvocate.com

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