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Letter: Homemade masks a little thing that may help slow down the spread of COVID-19

MP provides sound advice when telling everyone to act like they have the virus
Sophia Mathur, daughter of Cathy Orlando and organizer of Sudbury's Fridays for Future movement, is convinced wearing a mask while shopping is a little thing that she can do to slow the spread of COVID-19. (Supplied)

Editor's note: The following is in response to “Little things can make a big difference amid COVID-19” from Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre on April 1.

Last week, Ontarians were presented with devastating numbers with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic. I chose not to repeat because the good news is we can still bend the curve and save lives.

In his recent opinion piece, MP Paul Lefebvre gave excellent advice when he said to act like you have COVID-19. This was sound advice because COVID-19 is a sneaky, dangerous virus.

On March 31, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned as many as 25 per cent of people infected with COVID-19 may not show symptoms. On April 1, a study was published from Iceland suggesting 50 per cent of COVID-19 cases have no symptoms. Iceland has tested five per cent of its citizens for COVID-19. 

The following day, Public Health Ontario published the study called, "Review of Asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infections in residents in a long-term care skilled nursing facility." A major conclusion was: symptom screening initially failed to identify approximately half of the residents in the long-term care facility with COVID-19.

MP Lefebvre also urged us to consider small things. Canadians know that we must practise social distancing, wash hands and not touch our faces. Is there anything else we can do?

We need to consider wearing homemade (not hospital) masks when in enclosed public spaces such as grocery stores and buses. And then after wearing the mask once, store it and wash it. Please search online on how to make and take care of such face coverings. 

The evidence is mounting that wearing homemade masks in enclosed spaces reduces the transmission of COVID-like viruses.

In a March 27 interview, Dr. George Gao, director-general of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that social distancing, restricting gatherings and quarantining the sick are essential, but we must also wear masks when in public. 

Correlational studies from China, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Czech Republic suggest wearing masks may slow down the rate of transmission of COVID-19.

Two meta-analyses also indicate that wearing cloth barriers on our faces reduces the rate of transmission. To find out more, google "Stealth Transmission of COVID-19 Demands Widespread Mask Usage" and "Physical interventions to interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses."

Masks may just add a little bit more protection if used properly and in combination with all other preventative measures.

Most importantly, hospital-grade masks should be for medical personal only. 

I urge you to research mask-wearing and COVID-19 yourself because I am not qualified to give medical advice. But I am wearing homemade masks when I shop and I hope to see more people doing the same. It's a little thing I have chosen to do after doing research. I also hope the powers that be also consider the evidence I have presented here.

I know that when we come out of the other side of this pandemic, Canadians will be a more scientifically literate population, thus better citizens and we will have a stronger democracy.

Cathy Orlando