Manage your risk after the end of the mandatory mask

After being forced out for nearly two years, Quebecers will soon be masters of their own mask. In closed public places they will wear it if they want, when they want, where they want. Advice to better find your way and to protect yourself better if necessary.

Posted yesterday at 6am.

Catherine Handfield

Catherine Handfield
The press

As of May 14, Quebec is following in the footsteps of other Canadian provinces (and virtually all western countries) by dropping the requirement to wear a mask in closed public places, with the exception of public transportation and healthcare facilities, where it remains required until further notice. “We are coming at a time when we believe the conditions are in place to make it no longer mandatory,” confirmed the acting national director of public health, the D.r Luc Boileau.

If it will no longer be mandatory, that doesn’t mean it’s forbidden to use it, “it goes without saying,” the D recalled.r Boileau, who invites the population to respect those who want to continue to wear it, by choice or to protect others. All indicators are down… but the virus is still circulating.

three elements

So the ball is in each individual’s court. According to epidemiologist Caroline Quach, pediatrician and microbiologist-infectiologist at CHU Sainte-Justine, we must take into account three elements in our personal reflection if we want to continue wearing it.

The first, she says, is our individual tolerance for risk. People who know they are at risk for complications because they are very old, because they have an illness that makes them vulnerable, or because they are immunocompromised “should continue to wear the mask, especially indoors,” estimates the Dd quack. Special circumstances can also influence people’s behaviour, such as an approaching journey. the dd Quach went to New York for Easter. “In the two weeks before the trip I wore my mask everywhere and didn’t go to restaurants because I wanted to be able to cross the border. †


the dd Caroline Quacho

Second point: the degree of transmission by the community. If the virus circulates a lot where you are, people may have the reflex to put on the mask in public. “As long as it’s community handed down, I think I’ll continue to wear it, especially to protect others,” says Dr.d Quach, who doesn’t stop himself from going to the restaurant.

Finally, the presence of vulnerable people around may also encourage people to continue the habit after May 14, the pediatrician adds.

Choose a good mask

Taking the example of other provinces and other countries, leaving the mask in public places may not happen immediately, but we can expect that after a few days or a few weeks, uncovered faces will become more and more numerous at the supermarket, at the mall, at the theater.


Few spectators wore masks at the Maple Leafs game on May 2 in Toronto.

If only a minority of people wear it, how protected will those people be? The models showed that wearing a face mask in public is a more effective measure if many people stick to it. The effect is multiplicative: the person is protected not only by his mask, but also by that of others.

When everyone wears the mask, transmission is reduced by about 25%, according to models from researchers at the University of Bristol and the University of Oxford.

We posed the question to Jeremy Howard, professor at the University of Queensland, Australia, and author of a literature review published earlier this year in the scientific journal PNAS† “It’s still very useful, he said on the phone, but you’ll have to be more careful to wear a good mask, and to wear it correctly. †

“And with the current variants, only respirators such as the N95 and KF94 are very effective in reducing transmission. The variants are so transferable that it doesn’t really make sense to use anything else. †

Variable efficiency

Not all masks are created equal. A randomized study conducted in Bangladesh, the results of which were published in the journal in December Science associated the cloth face covering with a 5% lower risk, compared to 11% for the surgical mask. Note, however, that these results were achieved when only 42% of the participants wore the mask.

When using the surgical mask (the famous blue mask) to protect yourself from COVID-19, the weak point is its tightness. “You’ll see holes in the sides, at least in most people who wear it, Jeremy Howard notes. When you inhale, you’re drawing most of the air in through the sides of the surgical mask and it’s not getting filtered.”

There are ways to make it more effective, the researcher says. You can use the “Knot and Tuck” technique, recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, which consists of making knots in each loop, as close to the edge of the mask as possible, and around the excess material under the edges of the mask. You can also put an appropriate cloth face covering over the surgical mask, says Jeremy Howard.

the dd Caroline Quach also believes that a person who really needs to protect themselves from COVID-19 would benefit from getting a respirator, available in pharmacies. “When it’s properly sealed, nothing beats this respiratory protection,” says Dr.d Quach, who was also wearing her N95 in New York when she was surrounded by unmasked people.

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