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Coronavirus public health Q&A with Dr. Vinita Dubey (Aug 5)

Last Updated Sep 20, 2020 at 2:11 pm EST

We know you have questions about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and we’re working to get you the answers, straight from the most trusted sources.

Toronto’s Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vinita Dubey, answered your COVID-19 related questions in a LIVE video interview Wednesday, August 5, on our Facebook page as well as here on our website.

Here are a few questions Dr. Dubey addressed:

(Questions were moderated and have been edited for grammar, punctuation and clarity)

Q: There are so many different kinds of masks. Are disposables as effective as cloth masks? Do you need an N95 for everyday use?
A: An N95 mask is not something that you need to wear in public. They are actually medical grade masks and actually anyone wearing an N95 mask – to wear it properly – you actually have to be fit tested. And even for day to day activities in the hospital, you don’t wear it.

Disposable masks are fine. We do recommend the cloth masks because they can be easily washed in your washing machine and then you can reuse them. You can also find one that fits you well, and then continue to reuse that after you clean it. Whereas the disposable masks are single use only and so after you use it, you would have to throw it away.

There’s no added benefit to using a disposable mask compared to a cloth mask because both of them are non-medical grade and would be considered good.

Q: Are masks supposed to be worn indoors in recreational facilities, for example, for senior day programs?
A: Absolutely. As per the new mask bylaw in Toronto, masks are required in all indoor public places, which would include a community center or rec center.

And so, if you’re participating in physical activity, you could temporarily remove the mask while you participate, while you go for a swim or do a cardio activity for example. But then after that, you would be required to put the mask back on.

If you’re doing a day program, you would be required to wear the mask for the whole time.

Q: If you need a medical exemption from wearing a mask, how do you get it? Is there an official form or card?
A: There is no formal process for getting an exemption. You do not need to carry a card. Some people have these cards and those cards are not endorsed by Toronto public health. We have not put those out. So people carry cards and actually really don’t need an exemption, for example.

So in the bylaw, if you need an exemption, you do not have to show proof that you need an exemption. It’s up to a business to decide what their policy is for mask usage for people who can’t wear a mask.

If you can’t wear a mask and you need to go shopping, you might want to consider alternate ways, safer ways – curbside pickup or ordering online, or using alternate hours that some stores have, when you could do your shopping more safely.

Q: How safe are teachers when they are seeing maybe over a hundred students every day in the kindergarten to grade three elementary classes, given that that age group can’t actually wear masks?
A: As I understand the new guidelines that are coming from the ministry of education, each teacher will be provided two surgical masks per day. A surgical mask is one step up from a cloth mask. Others are protected from your germs, but you will actually be protected from others as well – we call it personal protective equipment.

And so when a teacher wears that surgical mask and they keep a distance as much as they can, wash their hands often – they are then protected just as I am protected when I work in the emergency department — they have more protective gear to prevent them from getting COVID.

So I think the most important thing is that we have to take precautions and in this case it will include for them to wear those surgical masks to help keep them safe as well.

Q: Would it be ideal for students and teachers to be tested before they start school?
A: In the recommendations that have come out from the ministry, there are recommendations for regular testing in high school. As I understand it, we’ll have to see what comes on board there.

Right now there is no recommendation that for example, everyone be tested before school starts or once a week.

The recommendation for testing is definitely, if you have symptoms, to get tested.

So it’s wait and see on that. I think there may be a role for it, but we don’t have any firm guidelines right now.

Watch the full interview with web writer Dilshad Burman in conversation with Dr. Vinita Dubey in the video above.

Scroll through the questions submitted to this session below.

Note: questions were moderated before appearing in the chat window