The new federal recommendation to wear a face mask with three layers of protection will be easy to follow for anyone who bought them with the opening for an optional filter.
The handmade fabric masks Stephanie Schneider created and sold at her East Vancouver designer studio Glasnost soon after COVID-19 hit have always had an opening for inserting a “filter” layer.
“I hadn’t had any requests (for masks with openings), but everybody buying them had the option to put in a filter, just in case it was suggested (someday),” she said.
She didn’t sell the filters but customers told her they made their own using blue absorbent shop towels or square pieces cut from microfibre shopping bags.
The new recommendation comes from Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who this week said non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers. She stressed their importance in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 as the cold weather pushes people indoors amid a second in cases.
The Public Healthy Agency of Canada said masks should be made of two layers of tightly woven fabric such as cotton or linen, plus a third layer of a “filter-type fabric” such as polypropylene, a non-woven man-made fabric. Tam also said it’s most important that the masks fit snugly, ideally with a nose pinch, and cover the nose and mouth.
The World Health Organization began recommending wearing a filtered, three-layer mask on June 12.
Natalie Hellyar has been selling masks with triple layers, plus an opening for an optional filter, since the start of the pandemic at her Main Street designer shop called the Arraei Collective, event though she estimated that only about 15 per cent of customers were asking for the extra protection.
But she said now people are looking for stronger masks, especially when they buy they them for grandparents or parents. She doesn’t sell filter inserts because she doesn’t feel knowledgeable enough about what is required.
And Dave Schmidt of Atex Designer Fabrics in Gastown, who has been doing a brisk business selling cotton print fabric for those who sew their own masks, said some have been using the non-woven interfacing material as a filter.
Quebec is planning to establish baseline standards for masks that could require government approval of products.
The Provincial Health Services Authority didn’t return a request for information about whether British Columbians should wear triple-layer masks or whether disposable paper, non-medical masks are adequate to prevent the spread of the virus.
Masks, physical distancing and partial lockdowns make up some of the main defences against the contagion until the arrival of a vaccine, which Tam hopes will be available in limited supply “as early as possible in 2021.”
As of Tuesday night, 244,935 Canadians have contracted the virus since March and 10,279 people have died.
— With files from The Canadian Press