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Can I use a mouth shield instead of a mask? Your COVID-19 questions answered –



We’re taking on your questions about the pandemic. Send them to us via email at, and we’ll answer as many as we can. We’re putting some of your questions to the experts during The National and on CBC News Network. We’re also publishing them here on our website. You’re keeping us busy. So far, we’ve received more than 52,000 emails from across Canada and beyond.

Can mouth shields replace cloth masks?

Mask questions continue to be a major theme in our inbox, but this week, a bunch of you are writing to ask us about mouth shields. The plastic guards cover the lower half of a person’s face and are marketed for stopping the spit of food-service workers.

Tal S. is wondering if they can be worn instead of non-medical masks. 

The experts say no.

“I don’t think they’re a really good alternative at all,” said Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at the University Health Network in Toronto, in a recent interview on The National.

“These are developed for the food-service industry, and they’re really not studied or designed for this purpose at all.”

Of course, the purpose of wearing non-medical face coverings, according to public health officials, is to protect others from the droplets spewing from your mouth and nose.

There is also evidence that non-medical masks may offer some protection for the wearer, too. But because mouth shields are not tight fitting and are open at the top, Hota said, there are “lots of opportunities for droplets to get in.” 

“I would avoid using them,” she said.

Colin Furness, an infection control epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, also said he’s “not a fan” because mouth shields don’t collect droplets like a mask would.

“Cloth masks actually get damp,” Furness said in an email. “But I’m guessing [shields] don’t have rivulets of water running down them, and that would be because the droplets aren’t staying.”

Instead, he explained, the droplets are just forced sideways around the shield.

“Full face shields have the same problem,” Furness said. Read more about the issues with face shields here.

I’m hosting an outdoor wedding. Is it OK to dance?

With the gradual lifting of limits on the size of gatherings, Canadians are asking us about good practices for get-togethers.

Joanne L. told us she’s hosting a backyard wedding at her home in Aurora, Ont., but she wasn’t sure if dancing was advisable.

The answer is: It’s complicated.

Dancing is allowed at backyard weddings in many parts of Canada, though distancing and gathering limits still apply. But public health experts say just because dancing is allowed doesn’t mean it’s without risk. (Marie De Jesus/Houston Chronicle/The Associated Press)

Dancing, like singing, is one of the activities that is still considered to be higher risk. In some settings, like in restaurants and bars in the province of Ontario, for example, they fall under explicit restrictions and regulations.

For example, performers must:

  • Work for the establishment.
  • Maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person.
  • Be separated from others with a physical barrier, like plexiglass.

However, the Ontario Ministry of Health explained in an email that those regulations don’t apply to events outside of restaurants and bars. 

That means dancing is allowed at your backyard wedding, though distancing and gathering limits still apply. Outdoors, that’s up to 50 people for the service or ceremony and up to 100 people for the reception. 

But just because it’s allowed doesn’t mean it’s without risk. It’s particularly risky, Furness said, because people tend to get close and start breathing harder, “which means expelling more droplets and expelling them further.”

Dr. Anand Kumar, a professor of medicine at the University of Manitoba, added that loud speech, shouting and singing also increase the potential distance of droplet spread. He recommended that guests wear masks “particularly if [there is] loud music which would force participants to shout.”

Health Canada also advises wearing non-medical masks when distancing is difficult. Furness suggested painting big circles on the dance floor, two metres apart, to keep people from getting too close. But he warned that things could become challenging when guests start cutting loose. 

“The problem with a wedding is that it’s not certain that people would keep their mask on or their distance from each other,” he said.

That said, being outdoors would offer “excellent protection,” Furness said, “and either really hot weather or a firm breeze is even more protective.” But the benefits of being outdoors might be reduced if you’ve erected a tent.

If it has open sides with a breeze coming through, Furness said he’d consider that “outdoors.” But if it has walls, it’s indoors.

“I did attend one family dinner in a tent with sides earlier this month, and it was easily the riskiest thing I have done since COVID began,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that again for any reason.”

Is there a safer way to hug?

It’s not just weddings that make people want to get close. The pandemic has left many Canadians longing to wrap their arms around their friends and family.

But what about people not inside your bubble? Carol F. wrote to us to ask if there is a safer way to squeeze them.

“It’s a difficult one to call,” Dr. Lynora Saxinger, an infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, said in an interview on The National.

“We know that routine closeness can lead to increased transmission.”

Hugs, for example, should be reserved as a “special occasion,” she said.

If you were to give someone a hug, brief contact while wearing masks and with your faces turned away ‘would be the safest way to do it,’ one expert says, adding it would be a good idea to reserve hugs for special occasions. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

If you were to give someone a special occasion hug, brief contact while wearing masks and with your faces turned away “would be the safest way to do it,” she said.

It might not be a bad idea to hold your breath as well, said CBC News medical contributor Dr. Peter Lin.

Hold your breath before “going in for the hug,” he told CBC News Network. “The virus is not moving at that point.” 

Lin said he even recommends this move to elderly grandparents.

“Once the hug is over, hold your breath again as they pull away, and the virus can’t be breathed into your system.”

That said, physical embraces aren’t without risk, and that might increase when the grandkids go back to school.

“Some people might say, ‘You know what. I’m still OK hugging my grandchildren,'” said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, infectious disease specialist at Toronto General Hospital.  

“Other people might say, ‘The risk is too high, and I’m not going to do this anymore, and we’ll get our hugs in before school starts,'” he said.

Bogoch advised keeping an eye on community transmission in your area. If rates go up, you may want to pump the brakes on close activity with the little ones. We looked at how grandparents might mitigate the back-to-school risks in a previous FAQ.

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Montreal and Quebec City will enter red zone soon: official – Paris Star



As COVID-19 cases continued to soar over the weekend, with 896 new cases in Quebec on Sunday and 698 on Saturday, Health Minister Christian Dubé said he expects to upgrade Montreal’s alert status this week.

As COVID-19 cases continued to soar over the weekend, with 896 new cases in Quebec on Sunday and 698 on Saturday, Health Minister Christian Dubé said he expects to upgrade Montreal’s alert status this week.

“I think we’ve reached that point,” Dubé said Sunday night on Radio-Canada talk show Tout le monde en parle. Montreal and Quebec City, he said, will go from orange (alert) to red (maximum alert) status “in the coming days.”

“What we’ll try to do in the coming days, it’s our biggest challenge, to find an equilibrium mainly — I’ll be very transparent — in Montreal and Quebec City, which are the hardest hit, they’re very close to the red zone.”

Dubé didn’t give details on what restrictions an upgrade to “maximum alert” would impose, explaining his department is working on finalizing those details over the coming hours. He did say the priorities would be keeping children in schools, allowing people to work, maintaining a “minimum of commerce” and containing outbreaks and protecting hospitals.

“They’re decisions that will be very difficult, but we have to make them,” Dubé said.

On Sunday, Quebec had 71,901 confirmed COVID-19 cases, of which 4,937 were active and 5,825 had died. Of the active cases, 216 were in hospital, and of those 41 were in intensive care. The number of people in hospitals has increased 57 per cent in a week.

A total of 27,380 people tested on Friday, for a cumulative total of 2,260,835 people tested to date.

The rising number of infections underlines the need for people to forgo social gatherings, said Dr. Jay Kaufman, an epidemiologist at McGill University.

Get-togethers with friends and family functions are likely the main cause of the recent uptick in the spread of the virus, which is seeing its highest numbers since cases peaked in April and May, he said.

“This means that it is largely up to individuals to ramp up their precautions and vigilance,” Kaufman warned.

On Friday, and again on Sunday, Dubé asked Quebecers to avoid all social contacts for the next 28 days in an effort to break the second wave of COVID-19.

“It is for a month — this is not permanent,” Dubé said on Friday. “We’re asking you for a month of effort to break the second wave.”

Olivia Segel and Emmanuel Audet share the waterfront with other people who have spread out to respect the two-metre rule as they enjoy a sunny afternoon along the Lachine Canal in Montreal, on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.

Allen McInnis /

Montreal Gazette

With cases of COVID-19 surging, Viva Singer said there was no question of gathering with 14 members of her family to celebrate Yom Kippur on Sunday.

“With cases close to 900, it just didn’t seem prudent,” Singer said as she stopped to chat with a friend on Sherbrooke St. in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

Singer said she is didn’t think it would be safe for her 83-year-old mother to be exposed to so many people and feared that her mother and other seniors will be isolated during the long winter if Quebecers don’t follow the advice of public health officials.

“My mother is an active senior and she isn’t going to Florida this year,” Singer said. “Florida is a scary place right now.”

Kaufman said the reason it is important to avoid get-togethers is that indoor events are the most impactful in terms of spreading the virus. The super spreader karaoke outbreak in Quebec City in August is an example, he noted.

Since it is difficult for the government to enforce rules on what people do in the privacy of their own homes, it is incumbent on people to exercise patience and restraint, he said.

“This is the space in which we are losing this war, and it is a matter of individual education and responsibility to convince people to hold off on gatherings, events and celebrations for some weeks until community transmission falls,” he said.

SPVM police bicycle patrols check on the crowds in Lafontaine Park in Montreal on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.

Allen McInnis /

Montreal Gazette

Evelyn Couture said she is glad that the health minister has asked Quebecers to avoid all non-essential gatherings for 28 days.

“I think it should possibly be made mandatory,” said Couture, who is part-owner of Doghaus, a pet supply store in N.D.G.

“From what I saw this weekend, people are not taking it seriously. There were lots of people out and about in restaurants and on terrasses that didn’t seem to do be doing a great job of (social) distancing.”

Six months into the pandemic, Couture still has to remind some customers to use the hand sanitizer dispenser when they enter the store. “It should be automatic by this point,” she said.

Some customers still stand too close to others when waiting in line, she added.

Couture has maintained a small bubble throughout the pandemic because she lives with her 87-year-old father.

She doesn’t have anyone over for dinner and only allows two clients in the store at a time. With winter around the corner, she wonders whether customers will wait outside on frigid days.

Jane Critchlow said people should think twice about hosting or attending large, indoor gatherings.

“The worst-case scenario is that we return to what is was like in March and April or worse than that,” said Critchlow, who kept socially distant from her friends while at a dog park in N.D.G.

Critchlow won’t be having family or friends over for Thanksgiving. She’s thinking about buying an outdoor patio heater to maximize the amount of time she can spend outdoors this fall.

Critchlow called on the Quebec government and public health officials to get their messages straight on recommendations on avoiding large gatherings.

“People are sceptical because there has been a lot of backtracking on what’s recommended and it changes so often. The danger of that is that people start to take things less seriously,” she said.

Jon Druker said avoiding family get-togethers will be difficult as the weather gets colder.

“Looking forward, it’s going to be tough. People will want to be indoors because it will be colder and that sense of isolation for people is going to be greater,” he said in an N.D.G. park.

His 15-year-old daughter Noa, a Grade 10 student at Villa Maria High School, said students her age “aren’t the best at following certain measures.”

“Our class sizes have increased and after school, when the bell rings, the hallways are jam-packed,” she said.

Dubé said Friday that Quebec has no plan to impose a second lockdown, in part because of fears that more people would instead gather in private homes.

But Kaufman warned if people don’t limit their social contacts, more stringent measures could result.

“Further restrictions of bars, restaurants and other businesses are likely if things don’t turn a corner soon, and that will be tough for businesses that have already suffered a lot,” he said.

Kaufman said while cases were concentrated in Montreal during the first wave in the spring, now they are more evenly spread across the province.

Montreal reported 1,542 new cases in the past week, for a cumulative total of 32,939. Two people died of COVID-19 in Montreal in the past week, and 31 people were hospitalized.

People were being asked to avoid Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital in the east end because of high patient volumes, the local east end health authority said Sunday night.

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Coronavirus: 51 new cases in Manitoba Sunday – CTV News Winnipeg



Provincial health officials have announced 51 new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba.

This brings the province’s total number of lab-confirmed and probable positive cases to 1,880 since early March.

The current test positivity rate now sits at 2.2 per cent.

The new cases announced on Sunday include:

  • One case in the Prairie Mountain Health region
  • Eight cases in the Interlake–Eastern health region
  • Two cases in the Northern health region
  • Four cases in Southern Health–Santé Sud
  • Thirty-six cases in the Winnipeg health

The province has 589 active cases and 1,272 people have recovered from the disease.

Thirteen people are in hospital with COVID-19, six of which are in intensive care.

The number of deaths in the province related to COVID-19 remains at 19.

On Saturday, 2,200 tests were performed, bringing the total to 178,067 since early February.

The municipality of Winnipeg will move to orange (restricted) on the province’s Pandemic Response System. Groups will be limited to people, both inside and out, for places that do not already have gathering size limits in place. Masks will be mandated in all public places.

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Manitoba sees 51 new COVID-19 cases on eve of tightened restrictions – Global News



Public health officials in Manitoba are reporting 51 new cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday, 36 of which are in the Winnipeg health region.

Eight cases have been identified in the Interlake-Eastern health region, four in the Southern Health region, two in the Northern health region and a lone case in the Prairie Mountain Health region.

Read more:
Metro Winnipeg area moving to level Orange restrictions Monday; masks to be mandatory

The current five-day COVID-19 test positivity rate is 2.2 per cent, down from 2.3 per cent on Saturday.

Thirteen people are currently in hospital with six in intensive care.

There are now 589 active COVID-19 cases in the province, 490 of which are in the Winnipeg region, according to provincial data. 

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The province is also warning of a possible school exposure at École Précieux-Sang on Sept. 18.

Public health officials say the virus was not contracted at school and the risk of transmission is low.

Another warning has been issued at Sisler High School after a possible exposure on Sept. 18.

Contact tracing at the high school is underway, with anyone identified as a close contact expected to be contacted and provided instructions for self-isolation by public health officials.

Read more:
65 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba Saturday, 56 in Winnipeg

Starting Monday, people in Winnipeg and 17 surrounding metropolitan communities are required to wear masks while in indoor public places as part of ratcheted-up public health restrictions.

Gathering sizes will be pared down to 10 people both indoors and outdoors.

The new rules come after the province announced Winnipeg, along with the municipalities surrounding the city, will move to a level orange restriction Monday, under Manitoba’s colour-coded pandemic response rating system.

<div class="l-article__part" data-shortcode=" Sign up for our Health IQ newsletter for the latest coronavirus updates ]

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The new restrictions will be in place for at least four weeks, including Thanksgiving on Oct. 12, chief public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Friday.

Preliminary laboratory testing numbers show 2,234 tests were completed Friday, bringing the total number of lab tests completed since early February to 175,867, the province said in a news release.

As of Sunday morning, the total number of cases in Manitoba is 1,880.

-With files from Erik Pindera and Elisha Dacey

Click to play video 'Coronavirus: Increased number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba linked to Winnipeg bars and restaurants, health official says'

Coronavirus: Increased number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba linked to Winnipeg bars and restaurants, health official says

Coronavirus: Increased number of COVID-19 cases in Manitoba linked to Winnipeg bars and restaurants, health official says

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