A doctor’s plea for cloth masks

A good homemade cloth mask has been medically proven to be 98 per cent as effective as an N-95 mask

By Signe Olynyk

Special to the Pioneer

Dr. Murray Trusler – a retired physician now living in Fairmont with a storied career that includes managing the most remote hospitals in Ontario, disaster planning for mass casualties, and running international emergency departments – remembers the surgical days before N-95 masks, when doctors used cloth masks for medical procedures.

Sometimes in high-risk infectious situations, he would wear two masks at a time, along with doubling up on gowns. Back then, it was an even higher infectious environment because there weren’t as many vaccines. The masks saved him and countless others from spreading disease.

Dr. Trusler believes everyone needs to be wearing a mask. Immediately.

A homemade cloth mask has been medically proven to be 98 per cent as effective as an N-95 mask, provided it fits properly and is well made. Although Canadian health officials and other countries have given mixed messages about masks, Dr. Trusler believes this could be a fatal mistake.

“We have to mobilize Canadians to do two things: make sufficient, properly made masks and get the word out that everyone needs to wear one outside of the home.”

Like Canada and many other countries, social distancing and hygiene (frequent hand washing) were the two key messages that authorities advised to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

But in the Czech Republic, the minister of health insisted on one additional measure: anyone who left their home had to wear a mask. Transmission of the virus slowed significantly, unlike in other countries where the number of infected people continued to rise.

Gail Gross has been working with Dr. Gareth Manheimer, chief of staff at the Invermere and District Hospital to ensure there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff, and for the public.

“We have had disposable masks and other PPE donated from businesses and individuals,” said Gross. “We have given masks to grocery store workers, cloth masks to pharmacies, and are working hard to get more out to as many people in the community as possible. We want everyone to have this protection, and it is free to anyone who needs it – as supplies are available.”

Because people in the community are donating the materials and time to make the masks, there is no expense to the healthcare system.

“For every infection, every hospital admission, every ICU admission, every intubation, every death prevented, there is a huge cost savings to the healthcare system,” said Dr. Trusler.

For every infection prevented, the risk to healthcare workers and other front line citizens is also reduced. For the relatively low cost of making and distributing masks that slow the disease, it could save millions for the healthcare system, and prevent the economic collapse from being even worse.

“We are facing economic destruction as we have never experienced in our lifetime. We will be forced to end our policy of isolation soon – in a matter of weeks according to the prime minister,” said Dr. Tesler. “When we return to work, social distancing will decrease no matter how careful we are. The one way we can readily reduce the risk of infection from closer contact is to wear cloth masks. To be effective, every one of us will have to be on board.”

In the Columbia Valley, there are more than 100 seamstresses making masks for everyone in our community – for free. Approximately 700 masks have been made so far, but it is anticipated that we will need upwards of 10,000 masks for local use. Homemade masks are being produced around the clock, and delivered daily to various locations.

In Invermere, masks are available at Lambert Insurance, Pharmasave, and Valley Foods. In Radium, you can pick yours up at the Mountainside Market. They’re at Pipps in Edgewater too.

“Every day we drop a supply off, but the masks are all gone by the end of the day,” said Erin Chandler, a firefighter with the Invermere Fire Department who is helping to coordinate the distribution effort. “More volunteers are needed, as well as donations of fabric and elastic. We have had a lot of support, but there is still a great demand.”

Chandler stressed that masks need to laundered before wearing and need to be cleaned every time before reusing.

“You don’t know who has touched it before you put it on and if they potentially had the virus,” she said. She also emphasized how important it is to “put it on and leave it on.”

“Every time you touch it, you are potentially contaminating it with COVID-19, and there could be droplets on the outside,” she said.

If you can help make masks or donate supplies, please contact Chandler at echandler@shaw.ca.


Just Posted

Invermere gets new CAO

Invermere found his new CAO after a long period of research.

Radium council discusses short term rentals

RHS council are elaborating the second draft plan for STR

Local resident turns 100

Invermere woman marks a century well-lived

Doctor Creek fire finally ‘being held’

The wildfire in Canal Flats is under control

Mount Nelson Community Garden

The Community Garden in the Mount Nelson Athletic Park is now full of vegies, herbs and flowers.

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Most Read