Tag Archives: Wear

Should I wear a mask outdoors? Your COVID-19 questions answered

We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 65,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Should I be wearing a mask outdoors? 

It depends on the circumstances. Federal public health officials recommend wearing a non-medical mask or face covering when:

  • You’re in public and you might come into close contact with others.
  • You’re in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your immediate household.
  • Advised by your local public health authority.

So if your circumstances meet any of these conditions — whether indoors or out — you should probably be wearing a mask.

However, if you’re doing something like walking in a quiet neighbourhood then the risk of transmission is very low, said Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University.

If you are going in and out of stores, or getting on and off transit while doing errands, it is best to just keep your mask on the whole time, to minimize touching it and potential contamination, Chagla advised in December.

And If you’re interacting with others outside you should wear your mask, while also staying two-metres apart, Chagla said.

More recently, Chagla called three-layer, non-medical masks a good “minimum standard.” He suggested Canadians should opt for masks that offer better protection whenever possible.

The rapid spread of more contagious coronavirus variants across the country has led people in some hard-hit regions to question whether national public health guidelines go far enough to protect Canadians.

The concern is that people could be at risk of getting the virus from very little exposure to it. 

Public Health Ontario (PHO), an arm’s-length, provincial government agency, recently told health units across the province they should reduce their thresholds for classifying all COVID-19 exposures given the emergence of variants.

If a person infected with COVID-19 and a contact are both wearing masks, but the contact isn’t wearing eye protection, PHO said they should be considered “high-risk” if they were within two metres for at least 15 minutes.

If neither of them is wearing a mask or eye protection — PHO said any amount of exposure time is risky, aside from briefly passing by each other. 

In York Region, just north of Toronto, public health officials made headlines after releasing startling new information on individuals infected with the variant first identified in the United Kingdom. 

Dr. Karim Kurji, the region’s medical officer of health, said the new variant spread despite people taking precautions.  

“Some of these people who caught it were just doing essential visits and not for very much time, just a minute or two,” he said in a statement to CBC News. 

Have a question or something to say? CBC News is live in the comments now.


It’s recommended that you wear a face mask if you’re in shared indoor spaces with people from outside your household. In Calgary, people taking public transit have to wear them. (Helen Pike/CBC)

As for mask-wearing tips, if you’re wearing a high-quality mask that fits well, then air will go through the material, rather than escaping out the sides. A properly fitted mask will expand and collapse with each breath.

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told CBC News there have been several cases of outdoor transmission between spectators “clustering and talking with each other” during soccer games and wedding receptions where people gathered under tents, but not from brief outdoor encounters.

However, Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, suggested that with infection rates climbing, residents in the capital should wear masks outdoors at all times.

“People should wear masks when they’re outside of their house as much as possible,” Etches said in a recent CBC Radio interview. “It’s an added barrier. You don’t know if you’re going to come into close contact with someone or not.” 


Doctors recommend people stay two metres apart, even while wearing masks outside. (Martha Dillman/CBC)

“Outdoors is much safer than indoors, but if you are right beside someone, you could breathe in their respiratory secretions,” she said. “We’re in a situation now where we need to have stronger protections.”

Places such as San Francisco and New Brunswick have mandated outdoor mask use, and Toronto recently made wearing face masks for outdoor activities such as skating mandatory.

I’ve had Bell’s palsy. Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine?

We’ve been hearing from a number of Canadians who have experienced Bell’s palsy, which causes a temporary weakness or paralysis in muscles in the face, and they’re wondering if it’s OK to get vaccinated.

First, it’s important to note that it is always best to talk to your doctor when making important decisions about your health, including weighing the benefits and potential risks of receiving any vaccine.

Generally, it should be fine for people who have had Bell’s palsy to get vaccinated, said Dr. Michael Hill, a neurologist and professor in the department of clinical neuroscience at the University of Calgary’s medical school. 


Health Canada collects information on adverse events following immunization. There were about 90 reports of issues after more than 600,000 vaccine doses were administered, according to recent statistics. (Kristopher Radder/The Brattleboro Reformer/The Associated Press)

However, some people might get Bell’s palsy after having a viral infection such as COVID-19, he said. 

Health Canada collects information on adverse events after immunization, from a variety of sources. Of the more than 600,000 doses administered as of Jan. 15, there were 90 adverse reports — only 0.015 per cent of all doses administered. Of those, 27, or 0.004 per cent of the total, were considered serious. It didn’t have any Bell’s palsy specific data.

“The benefits of vaccines authorized in Canada continue to outweigh the risks,” according to Health Canada’s website. 

Internationally, Bell’s palsy was reported after vaccination in a very small number of participants in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna trials. 

Pfizer reported six cases of Bell’s palsy, including four in the vaccine group, which it said was a rate typical of the general population

“From what I understand, [experts] say that that incidence is on par with the normal population and therefore isn’t considered to be statistically significant,” Pfizer Canada’s president Cole Pinnow told CBC News.


The benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks, according to Health Canada. (Lee Smith/Reuters)

Pfizer continues to collect safety information and submit regular updates to Health Canada, it said in a February statement.

Moderna reported four cases in its trials, including three among people who had the vaccine and one in the placebo group. The company said that three of the cases had resolved themselves.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not concluded that these cases were caused by vaccination, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is advising people who previously had Bell’s palsy that they “may receive an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.”

It is possible that vaccines can cause side-effects like Bell’s palsy “in very rare instances,” Matthew Miller, an associate professor of infectious diseases and immunology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. said in a CBC News interview in January. 

But, there’s likely a greater chance of getting those side-effects from COVID-19 than from the vaccine, Miller said.

You can read more about that here.

Have questions about this story? We’re answering as many as we can in the comments.

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Dozens of airline passengers in Canada hit with fines, warning letters for refusing to wear a mask

Dozens of passengers on Canadian airlines have been slapped with fines or warning letters by Transport Canada in recent months for refusing to wear a mask on board a flight, with more incidents involving Alberta airports than any other province.

A review of Transport Canada data by CBC News reveals that WestJet passengers have been the hardest hit — with 50 of the 72 incidents, or nearly 70 per cent, involving passengers on the Calgary-based airline.

WestJet passengers were issued eight of the nine fines, known as administrative monetary penalties, meted out since June. The ninth fine was to a passenger who flew from Vancouver to Whitehorse on Air North in August.

Transport Canada has issued 12 warning letters to passengers on Air Canada flights, two to Jazz passengers and two to people on Air Transat flights, while Air North, Calm Air, Flair, KLM and Swoop each had one passenger who received a warning letter.

While Transport Canada provided information in September on the amounts of the first two fines levied — one in June for $ 1,000 and another in July for the same amount — it would only provide ranges for the amounts of most of the fines.


WestJet employees wear masks at the Calgary International Airport in October. According to Transport Canada data, the airline’s passengers have been involved in 50 of the 72 incidents where fines or warning letters have been issued for refusing to wear a mask on a plane. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Overall, two people were fined between $ 100 and $ 500, five received fines ranging from $ 501 to $ 1,000, one passenger was handed a fine that ranged from $ 1,001 to $ 1,500 and another was hit with a fine of between $ 1,501 and $ 2,000.

Another 63 passengers have received warning letters. While the warning letters don’t lead directly to fines, Transport Canada spokesperson Sau Sau Liu said they can result in higher fines for a second offence.

“Based on Transport Canada’s graduated approach to enforcement action, when warranted by the results of an investigation where mitigating factors are taken into consideration, a first offence may result in a letter of warning,” she said.

“The letter serves as a reminder of the consequences the offender may face should the infraction be committed again in the future. Should a second or subsequent violation occur for the same offence/violation, Transport Canada’s process would trigger an enhanced level of enforcement action, which could result in a penalty of up to $ 5,000.”

But if there is evidence of “aggravating factors, such as blatant and repeated refusals to comply,” combined with such things as disrespectful or abusive language, physical or verbal threats, a first offence can result in a fine and even criminal charges, Liu said.

WestJet has ‘zero-tolerance’ mask policy

While Alberta has 11.5 per cent of Canada’s population, 36.8 per cent of the incidents occurred on flights to or from an Alberta airport. Calgary’s airport — which is a WestJet hub and is Canada’s fourth largest — was involved in 37 incidents, while Edmonton’s airport was involved in 14.

In Ontario, which has 38.2 per cent of the country’s residents, incidents on flights to or from the province’s airports made up for 23.6 per cent of the total. According to the data, Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, which has more traffic than any other Canadian airport, was the departure or arrival point in 30 incidents.


Passengers wait to board flights at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Monday. In Ontario, which has 38.2 per cent of the country’s residents, incidents involving a failure to wear a mask on flights to or from the province’s airports made up 23.6 per cent of the total fines and warning letters. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

British Columbia was involved in 19.4 per cent of incidents. While 18 incidents involved flights going to or from Vancouver International Airport, there were also incidents involving flights that visited Kelowna (4), Kamloops (1), Abbotsford (3), Comox (1) and Terrace (1). 

Only five incidents involved passengers flying to Canada from international airports — two from London’s Gatwick Airport, two from Paris and one from Israel.

WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said the airline adopted a zero-tolerance policy on mask-wearing in September.

“Our approach is zero-tolerance, as Canadian travellers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe,” she said, pointing out that WestJet has flown more than 28,000 flights and more than a million passengers since the pandemic began.

“Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

Bell said WestJet has issued 34 red cards to passengers who refused to wear masks on board — barring them from flights on WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop for a year. Another 121 passengers received yellow warning cards.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline has complied with reporting obligations and worked with Transport Canada during its investigations.

Air Canada was one of the first airlines to require face coverings and recently strengthened its policy to improve the safety of passengers and crew members, he said.

“For customers eligible for a face-covering exemption, as of Dec. 15, 2020, they will also need to present a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours from departure, at the airport check-in and/or prior to boarding the flight,” he wrote in an email.

“They may need another negative COVID-19 test for their return journey if the departure of their return trip exceeds 72 hours from the time the initial test was taken.”


Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says he hears from his members almost daily about incidents involving passengers who don’t want to wear face masks. (Zoom/CBC)

Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said he hears from his members almost every day about cases where a passenger didn’t want to wear a mask.

“It’s a health and safety concern to all, but it’s their work environment, and they need to be safe when they’re in their work environment. And if they feel unsafe because somebody doesn’t have a mask, they’re not required to put themselves in that particular situation.”

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Once someone is vaccinated, do they still have to wear a mask? Your COVID-19 vaccine questions answered

We’re answering your questions about the pandemic. Send yours to COVID@cbc.ca, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We publish a selection of answers online and also put some questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. So far, we’ve received more than 59,000 emails from all corners of the country.

Now that a COVID-19 vaccine has been approved in Canada and the first shots are set to be given, lots of you have questions about vaccines: If I’ve previously tested positive for COVID-19, should I still get vaccinated? Is the vaccine safe for pregnant women, children and people who are immunocompromised? Where can I find the ingredients list? Can I choose which vaccine to get? We talked to the experts to get you some answers.

Once someone is vaccinated, do they still have to wear a mask and physically distance?

Dr. Zain Chagla, an associate professor of medicine at McMaster University and an infectious disease physician in Hamilton, Ont., said yes, in the short-term, for two reasons.

The first is, during such a large immunization, not everyone will get vaccinated at the same time. Some will be vaccinated while others are still waiting and need to be protected by wearing masks, physical distancing, frequent hand-washing and other safety measures. 

“Plus, it takes time for the immune response to actually build up and kick in,” Chagla said. 

WATCH | How we’ll learn more about the effectiveness of the vaccine over time:

Health Canada chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma spoke with the CBC’s Tom Parry during a briefing on Wednesday. 2:06

Given that the vaccines will be rolled out in a step-wise fashion starting with the most vulnerable populations, the health-care workers who serve them and then scaling up to the general public, Dr. Tasleem Nimjee, an emergency department physician in Toronto, suspects that we’ll see a parallel drawing back on public health measures such as wearing masks and staying apart.

“It’s not going to be a sort of, ‘Now we can all take off our masks,'” Nimjee said on The National’s virtual town hall, Confronting COVID. 

Instead, shedding masks will likely be more gradual.

Can you still carry and spread the virus if you’ve been vaccinated?

That’s not something most of the clinical trials were designed to test, said Dr. Michael Gardam, a Toronto infectious disease physician who is currently the senior medical adviser for Health PEI.

In the recently published study on the clinical trial results for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the efficacy against asymptomatic infection was just 27 per cent — suggesting those vaccinated generally can still transmit the disease — but the number of cases was quite small to draw conclusions.

WATCH | Why vigilance and patience will still be required in 2021: 

As vaccinations get underway, the World Health Organization’s technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, makes an impassioned appeal for people to protect themselves and loved ones from COVID-19 in 2021. 1:48

Moderna says it does plan to check if its vaccine prevents more than just symptomatic infection.

Gardam said because it’s something that still needs to be figured out, “for now, getting vaccinated does not automatically mean that you couldn’t potentially pass COVID-19 on to someone else.”

That’s another reason he expects we’ll be wearing masks for a while, he said.

Will those who have tested positive for COVID get the vaccine or will they be deemed to have immunity? Is there any danger if they do get the vaccine?

There’s not enough information yet to answer the first question, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious disease doctor in Toronto and a member of Ontario’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution task force.

“But my inkling,” he said, “is that they should be vaccinated.”

Bogoch said there have been reports of people getting reinfected with COVID-19 as soon as four months after recovering from their previous infection, and those are probably the tip of the iceberg. He said he expects most people who have recovered from COVID-19 will be eligible for vaccination.


As to whether getting the vaccine poses a risk to those who have been previously infected, Gardam said no, there is no danger.

He said vaccines are routinely given to people without testing if they have been exposed to the disease, because it’s logistically easier to just vaccinate everyone. 

What if only half the population is vaccinated? How much of the population has to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity?

Herd immunity is the point at which the virus can’t find enough people to infect in order to continue the chain of infection. 

Vaccinating half the population probably won’t be enough.

The percentage required to achieve herd immunity depends on how many people a single infected person spreads the disease to on average. For COVID-19, this is thought to be between two and three, so about 60 to 70 per cent of the population will need to be immune in order to achieve herd immunity.

WATCH | What to expect with the vaccine rollout:

Infectious diseases specialist Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti says Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is a ‘historic moment’ that will trigger the first wave of a countrywide immunization campaign.  6:00

In other words, if a vaccine is 100 per cent effective, then 60 to 70 per cent of the population would need to be vaccinated.

However, the COVID-19 vaccines have been less than 100 per cent effective in clinical trials, and may be even less so in the real world, said Dr. Zain Chagla of McMaster University. That’s because the trials didn’t include people with certain medical conditions, such as cancer, or transplant recipients, to name a couple examples.

So, how effective are the vaccines when they’re given to all kinds of people?

“That’s really what’s going to determine how long it takes to get to true herd immunity,” Chagla said. 

Will the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines work for people on chemo or suffering from autoimmune diseases or taking an immunosuppressant drug? Will they be able to take these vaccines?

Bogoch said those conditions are all different, and it’s important for anyone who has them to talk to their doctor about their unique situation.

“But, in general, it’s very likely that those with an immunocompromised state will be eligible for this vaccine,” he said.

It’s possible that they won’t generate the same level of immunity as a healthy person, he said, “but some protection is better than nothing.”

Gardam said there may be concerns about giving a vaccine containing live viruses to an immunocompromised patient, but the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines contain only genetic material.

“There’s nothing live in that. So, typically, people who are immunocompromised can get vaccines like that.”

Could a person get a shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for their first dose and the Moderna vaccine for their second?

Right now, you can’t take shots of two different vaccines, Bogoch told CBC News Network.

“If you start with Moderna, you end with Moderna,” he said. “I doubt anything would happen if you mixed and matched, but it’s not going to happen. You shouldn’t be doing that.”

That’s because different vaccines haven’t been tested together yet. However, tests of combinations of different types of COVID-19 vaccines have been proposed for next year, so that could change in the future.

Can I choose one vaccine over another? 

“I suspect we won’t have the luxury of doing that, at least in the early stages,” said Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious disease specialist at the University Health Network and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Quantities of the vaccine will be limited for now.

“We’ll probably have to get whatever’s available at that time,” she said.

WATCH | COVID-19 vaccinations off to a quick start in the U.K.: 

Thousands of people across the U.K. received the first doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, but officials are warning there is still a long way to go before the end of the pandemic. 3:10

Where can I find a list of ingredients for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine?

The ingredients are listed on Page 23 of the vaccine’s product monograph. A detailed article about them was recently published in the MIT Technology Review.

In general, you can find the ingredients list for vaccines in the Canadian Immunization Guide or the vaccine’s product monograph available through Health Canada’s Drug Product Database.

Do I still need to take the flu shot if I get the COVID-19 vaccine? 

Absolutely, Chagla says.

The reason is, the flu and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses and need different vaccines.

“The time is probably now to get your flu shot in,” Chagla said. 

Will we need to take this vaccine yearly like the flu shot? 

Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta, said we don’t have an answer yet because immune responses to the vaccines haven’t been studied long enough to know.


We’ll get a better sense of whether the coronavirus vaccines prevent people from transmitting and shedding the virus as they roll out to millions of people worldwide, doctors say. (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Gardam said there’s been a lot of discussion about whether vaccines to protect against COVID-19 will be needed each year.  

“The only way we’re going to know that is by following people along over the next nine months to a year to see if they still have good immunity or not,” Gardam said. 

I suffer from severe trypanophobia. Is there an oral or nasal COVID-19 vaccine in the works?

Trypanophobia is fear of medical procedures involving injections or needles. Those who suffer from it will be happy to know that a number of oral and nasal COVID-19 vaccines are in development. In fact, there are research groups in Canada working to develop both those kinds of vaccines, and the oral vaccine from Symvivo has begun clinical trials. There is also a nasal spray from Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy and Xiamen University that is in Phase 2 clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization’s tracker.

What constitutes a ‘history of serious allergic reactions?’ Once?

Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic response by the body to a substance in a food, medicine or vaccine. 

Chagla said people with anaphylaxis can get very short of breath and their blood pressure can drop.

The experience of a single episode that required epinephrine, such as from an EpiPen or other auto-injector, constitutes a “history of serious allergic reaction.”

WATCH | Investigating adverse events after vaccinations:

British regulators say people who have a ‘significant history’ of allergic reactions shouldn’t receive the new Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. Two adverse reactions occurred on the first day of the country’s mass vaccination program.  4:45

Dr. Zainab Abdurrahman of McMaster University’s clinical immunology and allergy department said the U.K. regulators temporarily paused delivery of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine to people with a history of anaphylaxis after two adverse events occurred among health-care workers with such a history who carried auto-injectors.

Both received the vaccine and then experienced reactions that doctors and regulators call adverse events until any cause-and-effect relationships are sorted out. The two people were treated immediately and recovered without needing to be hospitalized. 

“There’s a lot of different kinds of reactions and we need to clarify exactly what happened,” such as what components of the vaccine might be responsible, Abdurrahman said.  

The adverse events could be coincidences that weren’t caused by the vaccinations. The events are under investigation and further guidance could come from regulators, Chagla said.

How many vaccines can our bodies tolerate?

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University who specializes in vaccine safety and communication, said she’s been getting this question for at least 25 years. Vaccines contain antigens — generally viruses, bacteria or parts of them — that trigger an immune response similar to those triggered by the microbes themselves.


Dr. Noni MacDonald says your immune system is designed to deal with significant amounts of antigens that trigger an immune response. (Dalhousie University)

“I think what people don’t know is how much we are bombarded by antigens … every day,” MacDonald said. Those include the microbes in your gut, in your food, in the air you breathe. “The amount of antigens that are in these vaccines is extraordinarily limited.”

And such small amounts are not going to overwhelm your immune system, she said.

And as Chagla points out, our bodies are programmed to deal with multiple pathogens and immune triggers at the same time.

“In everyday life, it’s not like every bacteria and virus takes a break because one other bacteria and virus has affected you. You can get a cold and then eat something that gives you food poisoning.”

In fact, infants receive a number of vaccines in a single product.

“We’re able to take multiple vaccines,” Chagla said.

Have a question? 

Send your questions to COVID@cbc.ca

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B.C. hotel employee spat on by customer refusing to wear mask has heart attack shortly after, manager says

An accountant for a hotel in downtown Nelson, B.C., had a heart attack and collapsed shortly after being spat upon by an angry customer refusing to wear a mask, according to the hotel manager.

The Nelson Police Department confirms it is investigating last Friday’s incident, in which the customer allegedly yelled at a barista who offered him a face covering at the Empire Coffee shop in the Adventure Hotel.

According to hotel manager Rob Little, the suspect “was screaming profanities at the top of their lungs to the point that they [the staff of Empire Coffee] had to say, ‘Just get out!’ “

Little said that after receiving a call from the coffee shop manager, he sent his accountant — a woman in her 50s — to see what was going on.

“It was at that point that the person was trying to enter again,” Little said.

“And she said, ‘Listen! You’re not going to talk to our people this way, and this is the law.’ And he proceeded to spit on her.”


Rob Little, general manager of the Adventure Hotel, said his accountant had a heart attack and collapsed an hour and a half after the encounter with the customer, who allegedly spat on the woman. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Little says police arrived and removed the suspect and took a statement from the accountant. 

After arriving back at the office about an hour and a half later, Little said the accountant, who was distraught from the experience, reported feeling ill and fell to the ground. 

She was airlifted to a hospital in Kelowna where it was determined she’d had a heart attack.

“She’s stable right now, but she’s not out of the woods by any stretch,” he said. 

Aggressive behaviour around mask mandate

At least one other business in the city of over 10,000 people said they’ve experienced an increase in aggressive behaviour targeting customer service representatives, after Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced last Thursday that face coverings are now mandatory in all retail spaces.

This week, Kootenay Co-op — a grocery store near the hotel — hired a security guard for the first time in its 45 years to head off rude behaviour among some shoppers who are resisting the mask mandate.

The grocery store’s manager said while most customers have followed the new regulations, about 10 to 20 per cent are refusing to wear a mask and become confrontational when asked to do so. 

“We all live here because of the quality of people that are here,” Little said. “To see this kind of polarizing views on things and people going to such extremes is just disappointing.”


Staff Sgt. Brian Weber says the Nelson Police Department is looking into the spitting incident. (Bob Keating/CBC)

Police investigating spitting incident

Staff Sgt. Brian Weber with the Nelson Police Department says police are looking at the relationship between the woman’s heart attack and the spitting incident with the customer. 

“There have been … some investigations that have made those causal links in the past,” he said.

“[But] it’s far too early and I know far too little about the exact file to make that kind of jump right now.”

The suspect is facing an assault charge.

Tap the link below to listen to Bob Keating’s conversation with Rob Little and Staff Sgt. Brian Weber on Daybreak South:

Daybreak South4:49Nelson hotel accountant gets heart attack after being spat on by an anti-mask coffee shop customer

CBC reporter Bob Keating speaks to the hotel manager and a Nelson police officer about the ugly incident that happened last Friday. 4:49

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What social science says about convincing people to wear masks during the COVID-19 pandemic

Mandating, not just recommending, the use of non-medical masks will help convince more Canadians to wear them as the economy reopens, just as wearing seatbelts is now the norm, some social scientists and physicians say.

In Canada’s largest city, wearing non-medical masks is now mandatory for people riding with the Toronto Transit Commission, with certain exemptions, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. A bylaw extending the rule to indoor public spaces goes into effect on July 7. Similarly, mayors in Peel Region, which includes Mississauga and Brampton, west of Toronto, and York Region to the north also plan to introduce such bylaws.

In Quebec, Premier François Legault announced that public transit users in the province will be required to wear masks starting on July 13.

Governments are passing laws that require the wearing of masks, but they’re difficult to enforce. That’s why behavioural scientists say it’s so important for the public to get on board with many health authorities who now consider face coverings a necessity.

Kim Lavoie, a professor of psychology in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal, is among the experts calling for governments in Canada to consult social scientists on preventive measures like wearing masks as lockdowns lift in the absence of vaccines or effective treatments for COVID-19.

“Wearing a mask is something we control. Washing our hands, staying home, skipping that party are all things we control,” Lavoie said.

“People forget that the virus isn’t more powerful than our collective will to get rid of it, and there are things we can do. But right now, they’re behavioural.”


Many aspects of the pandemic are beyond our control. Wearing a mask isn’t one of them, experts say. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. David Fisman, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said masks could help more people get back to business and “regular life.”

“We think it’s sort of low-hanging fruit and a no-brainer,” Fisman said.

Why? Layering on masks on top of hand hygiene, avoiding touching your face and physical distancing helps reduce transmission in small case reports, observational studies and a preliminary model.

“Me wearing a mask protects you. If I have COVID, you wearing a mask also protects you from breathing in my virus,” Fisman said.

While Fisman called Canada “a country of rule followers,” there are people who oppose mandating masks, saying it impinges on individual rights and freedoms.

But with COVID-19, one person’s behaviour affects the next person — the basis for secondhand smoke laws.

“It’s no more [an infringement] than asking you to wear a seatbelt,” Lavoie said. “You’re not free to drink yourself under the table and then get behind the wheel. If you don’t have a PCR test at your house to test yourself negative, then you have to consider the possibility that you might be infected and not know it and be putting us all at risk.”

Protecting yourself a major motivator

Lavoie is one of the researchers behind a large study called iCARE (International assessment of COVID-19-related attitudes, concerns, responses and impacts). Together with collaborators from Johns Hopkins University’s project on cases and Oxford’s policy tracker, they’re regularly surveying Canadians and people around the world on how they feel about and adhere to policies.

The goal of the research is to disentangle what motivates people of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds to change their behaviour to inform health-care policy and messaging.


Awareness, motivation and confidence are important to changing behaviour, says Kim Lavoie, a professor of psychology in behavioural medicine at the University of Quebec at Montreal. (Submitted by Kim Lavoie)

Based on 50,000 responses since the end of March, Lavoie said the findings to this point suggest that concern about getting infected with the virus is a major motivator.

“One thing people don’t realize is how contagious it is,” she said.

Most people recover at home, but people of all ages have also been severely sickened, some for months, says the Public Health Agency of Canada. Patients say long-term symptoms and consequences such as heart damage are coming to the fore.

An urgent need

While making mask wearing the norm would help prevent transmission, Fisman said mixed messaging and “dithering” by Ontario’s government have hindered mask use from becoming commonplace.

“Once the signal comes from our public health leaders that this is the expectation and this is how we’re going to move forward, I think people will fall in line pretty fast,” he said.


A woman wears a protective face mask as she waits to enter a bank in downtown Vancouver on June 2. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Wearing masks could be considered a behaviour that needs to be adopted urgently and collectively, Lavoie said.

She pointed to how behavioural change boils down to three factors:

  • Awareness of the need to wear masks.
  • Motivation, such as protecting yourself, loved ones or neighbours who may be vulnerable to serious complications.
  • Confidence in the ability to execute the behaviour.

Cost can be a barrier. That’s why Alberta’s government is distributing 20 million non-medical masks at drive-thru restaurants.

Shift from self-consciousness to the norm

Mitsutoshi Horii, a professor of sociology at Chaucer College in Canterbury, England, studied the uptake of masks in Japan during the 1918 flu pandemic. The practice continues in Japan during flu and hay fever season, as well as during COVID-19.

Horii said when the 1918 flu pandemic hit, the Japanese government prohibited traditional folk rituals around health as part of its efforts to promote modernization and to avoid colonization.

“Then the mask came in and that gave people a sense of direction. When you’re facing uncertainty, you want to do something. By doing something, we establish a sense of control,” he said.

WATCH | Canada’s patchwork of mask measures:

Federal government and health officials are reluctant to make wearing a mask mandatory in Canada, citing a focus on education and issues with enforcement. 1:58

Horii contrasts that with his experience in the U.K. now, where wearing masks is not common.

“Personally, I still feel embarrassed to wear a mask” in the U.K., Horii said, even though they’re now compulsory on public transit in England and will soon be required in stores in Scotland.

He said he thinks changing the rules would encourage him and others to overcome self-consciousness.

“At the same time, I bought some masks and we’re ready to wear [them] at any time. We just need a bit of a push to do it.”

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Canadians should wear masks when physical distancing is difficult, says chief medical officer

Canada’s chief public health officer says Canadians should wear a mask as an “added layer of protection” whenever physical distancing is not possible.

Dr. Theresa Tam provided the updated advice during her daily news conference in Ottawa today.

“For the spring and summer months, strict adherence to the public health basics of physical distancing, handwashing and cough etiquette must continue as the bare minimum,” she said.

“In addition, where COVID-19 activity is occurring, use of non-medical masks or face coverings is recommended as an added layer of protection when physical distancing is difficult to maintain. And staying home when sick is a must, always and everywhere.”

Watch: Chief Public Health Officer explains mask guideline

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, is now recommending that Canadians wear masks in public as an “added layer of protection” whenever physical distancing is not possible. 2:27

Tam said the new guideline comes as provinces begin to allow businesses and services to reopen, bringing more people out of their homes.

Asked if the recommendation should have come earlier in the pandemic emergency, Tam said public health advice has been evolving based on the science. That advice is also now responding to the fact that, with more provinces taking cautious steps toward reopening their economies, more Canadians are coming into closer proximity to one another in public.

“We need to flexibly change our measures as we get more information,” she said.

Tam said the advice coming from her office today is a “specific recommendation,” while the previous language was “more permissive.”

The position taken by Tam’s office at the start was that masks can protect others — so if someone is showing symptoms and needs to go out, they need to cover their face. As officials learned more about asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers and their potential role in transmission, the advice on masks changed.

Asked if the federal government could issue a directive to make mask-wearing in public mandatory, Tam said it remains a recommendation at the national level — but provinces and communities could make their own decisions based on local conditions.

She also warned that wearing a mask won’t protect an individual from infection on its own, and stressed that physical distancing remains fundamental.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wears a mask at a repatriation ceremony for six Canadian Armed Forces members killed in a helicopter crash off of Greece Wednesday, May 6, 2020. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

PM to wear mask in public

Tam said measures to suppress the disease through the summer are essential to buy more time for research and innovation on medical therapies and vaccine development.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he has started wearing a mask in public in situations where he could be in close proximity to people.

“That’s my personal choice. I think that’s what is aligned with what public health is recommending,” he said. “I think we all need to adjust to what works in our circumstances and keep safety at the forefront of what we’re doing.”

Watch: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his decision to wear a mask in public

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says wearing a mask is his personal choice and he wears one whenever he’s unable to keep two metres’ distance from others. 1:04

Trudeau said he will wear a mask to in-person sittings of Parliament but will remove his mask once at his desk to engage in parliamentary debate.

He was first seen wearing a mask in public during a May 6 Canadian Armed Forces repatriation ceremony.

Trudeau said again that the best measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 are to stay two metres apart, to stay at home whenever possible and to wash hands regularly and frequently.

Singh following health advice

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh will be wearing a mask outside of his home “in times when physical distancing is hard or not possible,” says a statement from his office.

“From the beginning of this crisis, he had followed public health experts’ advice and will continue to do so,” says the statement.

Asked if Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is wearing a mask, a party spokesperson said: “A number of our MPs have made the personal decision to wear masks on the Hill. Conservative MPs will continue to follow public health guidelines.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has not formally recommended wearing masks and has said the evidence is inconclusive on whether people who are asymptomatic should wear them.

But many experts say masks should be mandatory because they can reduce the amount of airborne droplets that can carry the virus.

Several countries, including Spain, have made wearing masks compulsory in cases where the two-metre physical distancing rule can’t be observed.

Today, Ontario’s provincial government said passengers on public transit should wear masks.

Watch: Trudeau arrives  on Parliament Hill wearing a mask

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen walking into West Block on Parliament Hill wearing a personal mask. He said his ‘personal choice’ to wear a mask in public is aligned with health recommendations. 0:23

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Major U.S. airlines to require passengers to wear masks, though start dates vary

Southwest Airlines and Alaska Airlines rolled out requirements for passengers and staff to wear masks when travelling, following similar edicts earlier this week from American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways.

The move comes as airlines big and small contemplate how to comply with physical distancing recommendations in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most flights are nearly empty these days — air travel in the United States is down 95 per cent from a year ago, and the average domestic flight has 17 passengers, according to industry figures.

But recently, passengers have posted photos on social media of crowded planes with many passengers who weren’t covering their faces despite the recommendation by federal health officials to wear a mask when in public to prevent spreading the virus that causes COVID-19.

In some cases, airlines created the crowds by cancelling other flights and packing passengers onto fewer planes.

‘We were all sitting right next to each other’

During a three-hour layover at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, Vince Warburton noticed a crowd gathering in the gate area before his American Airlines flight to Los Angeles.

“People were laughing at the fact that [gate agents] were encouraging us to social distance while boarding the plane, and there were so many people in line,” said the 32-year-old video engineer, who was commuting to a job.

“When we got on the plane, we were all sitting right next to each other.”

Warburton was flying on a discount ticket and was assigned a middle seat in a full row.

“People were very uneasy. I was very uncomfortable.”


A ticketing agent wears a face mask while waiting for passengers to check in at the Southwest Airlines counter at Denver International Airport on April 23. Southwest said Friday employees who deal with customers will be required to wear masks beginning Monday, with a requirement for passengers in effect on May 11. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

Airline executives say they know that customers must feel safe before they’ll venture from sheltering at home to getting on a plane, and they have taken some steps.

‘This is the new flying etiquette’

This week, JetBlue became the first U.S. airline to announce it will require passengers to wear face coverings during flights, starting next week.

“Wearing a face covering isn’t about protecting yourself, it’s about protecting those around you,” said JetBlue president Joanna Geraghty. “This is the new flying etiquette.”

Earlier Thursday, Frontier Airlines said that it would begin requiring masks May 8. Delta and United announced they would make masks mandatory starting Monday.

American, Southwest and Alaska have said it will be a requirement for passengers, effective May 11. Southwest said it will provide masks to customers who don’t bring their own.

“In light of COVID-19, we’re in a new era of air travel and are continually updating our safety standards to better protect our guests and employees,” Max Tidwell, Alaska Airlines vice-president of safety, said in a statement. “For now, this includes wearing masks, which is another layer of protection that can reduce the spread of the virus.”

American began requiring flight attendants to wear masks Friday, with Southwest issuing its requirement for customer-facing employees on Monday, and Alaska Air a day after that.

Enhanced cleaning measures

Until now, those airlines said they were encouraging passengers to wear masks, and several required their own flight attendants to wear them. The reluctance has come even as U.S. coronavirus deaths have soared from 1,000 on March 26 to more than 63,000 in just over a month.

Just hours before American Airlines announced it will require passengers to cover up, its airline CEO Doug Parker said he wanted to see how the rule worked at JetBlue, and expressed reservations about enforcing a mandatory policy.

“We want to be careful about putting our team in the position of being police on that,” Parker told The Associated Press. “What we’re hoping instead is that virtually all customers will choose for their own protection and out of respect for others on the airplane to wear a mask in flight.”

WATCH | Tips for navigating tight spaces, tricky situations:

Physical distancing has radically changed how we socialize. But there’s still some scenarios where it’s difficult to limit our physical contact with others. Here’s how to best navigate them. 3:23

The Association of Flight Attendants, which says 300 of its members have contracted COVID-19, and some Democrats in Congress are pushing the Trump administration to require that passengers wear masks.

Air travel is “a major vector for COVID-19,” Democratic senators Edward Markey of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said in a statement.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat who is chair of the House’s transportation committee, said he pressed the head of the Federal Aviation Administration to require face coverings for all passengers and crew, and to require airlines to take “reasonable” steps to keep passengers at safe distances from each other.

In a statement, the FAA said Administrator Stephen Dickson expects airlines to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recommended that everyone wear face coverings when in public.

Beyond masks, several airlines say they are blocking some or all middle seats to create physical distancing. That is possible now on most flights but will become more difficult when passengers begin returning in bigger numbers — airlines would forfeit revenue if they block seats then.

Almost every airline says it is stepping up cleaning of planes, sometimes including the use of misting machines to spray anti-viral chemicals inside the cabin. They are also trying to persuade passengers that air inside the cabin is safe to breathe.

Cabin air on most jetliners is a mix of fresh air from the outside and recirculated air that is passed through high-efficiency or HEPA filters designed to trap most airborne particles.

In Canada, Transport Canada has made it mandatory for all passengers to wear masks while on board and in airports when they cannot physically distance two metres from others.

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