Starting Monday, students in all high schools in Quebec will be required to wear disposable surgical masks. The government will provide each with two per day.
This represents 84.5 million masks to be thrown away by June. Made from polypropylene, these bits of plastic will take ages to decompose.
A false solution
If it was scientifically shown that disposable masks are more effective in fighting COVID than reusable masks, I would shut up. But this is not the case.
Several studies, including one published in the famous medical journal JAMA, report that fabric masks are as good, sometimes even more effective than conventional surgical masks at filtering the coronavirus.
This is why both Canadian and US federal public health authorities argue that non-medical fabric masks are sufficient in educational settings, including high schools.
You need adjustable fabric masks
If you hang out with young high school students, you may have noticed that disposable surgical masks are too big for many of them. They are even for me.
If our fingers are able to get around the sides of the mask, imagine what it is like with the coronavirus when someone coughs or sneezes! For a mask to be effective, it must be adjustable.
Whether disposable or not, the masks must obviously be used correctly. This is far from being the case at the moment.
Touching one’s mask and then touching surfaces that will be touched by others is a transmission factor. A lot of education needs to be done. Even for adults.
It is aberrant to impose a polluting measure on our youth, especially since it has not been scientifically proven to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
To be consistent, the government of Quebec should instead provide students with reusable, adjustable, three-layer fabric masks. Training for everyone on their proper use would not be a luxury!
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