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It's winter. It's cold. How do I deal with a mask that freezes? – CBC.ca

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There is a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon. But first, winter. 

We’ve been hearing the warnings for weeks. It’s going to be a long, hard few months. 

People who live in Canada fashion themselves as cold weather warriors — able to withstand -20 C temperatures. This year, that could be an especially good thing. 

The advice from medical experts is to resist retreating indoors where COVID-19 is much more easily transmitted. Bundle up, mask up if necessary, and get outside as much as possible.   

“You know, if you’ve ever wanted to learn broomball, this is your chance,” said Dr. Matthew Oughton, an infectious diseases specialist at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital and an assistant professor at McGill University. 

But what about masks in winter? Do they still work if they get wet? Do you really need to wear them outside anyway? 

Here’s some advice for how best to tackle the coming winter pandemic months.

Will my mask work if it gets wet and/or freezes?

The short answer is probably not. Oughton, officials from Health Canada and the Centers for Disease Control in the United States pretty much agree that once a mask gets wet, it’s no longer fully effective. 

And that’s why you should always have back-up masks.

There is no concrete, scientific data on mask efficacy in cold weather. However, when you breathe through a mask in cold conditions, the moisture from your warm breath collects on the mask. It tends to stay warm enough on the inside due to your body temperature to remain liquid, but will freeze on the outside. 

WATCH | Why health experts recommend three-layer masks: 

Doctors answer viewer questions about COVID-19 including why three-layer masks are now being recommended to protect against the virus. 5:22

That leads to two mask issues Oughton said: they become harder to breathe through; and become less effective at “capturing respiratory droplets and preventing them from leaving the proximity of someone’s mouth and nose.”

But that doesn’t mean they are completely useless, according to Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and an associate professor at McMaster University. 

“Masks offer a little bit more [protection], particularly in those settings where people are bunched up outdoors, where there may be a bit more risk of transmission.”

Oughton said if you are going to wear a mask outdoors in the cold for a long period of time, you should have two or three back-ups, so you can keep a dry one on.

And most important: make sure the mask is cloth. The paper kind — the surgical style ones — degrade and tear far more easily when they get wet, said Oughton. 

All in a Day9:44Anti-fogging tips and tricks

Tired of contending with foggy glasses while wearing masks? Help is on the way. 9:44

Do you really need a mask out in the cold? 

It depends on the circumstances. 

Being outdoors while observing proper distancing measures is “really, really protective” on its own, according to Chagla. He said the documented cases of outdoor transmission of COVID-19 have involved situations like barbecues or people watching a sports event, gathered together for longer periods of time.

For activities like going for a walk in your neighbourhood or skating on a not-too-crowded rink, he said the risk of transmission is very low. But he does advise that if you are going in and out of stores, or getting on and off transit while doing errands, it is best to just keep the mask on the whole time to minimize touching the mask and potential contamination.  

The advice is the same if you are planning to gather with others over the holidays for an outdoor gift exchange or short visit. If you can maintain distance, you should be fine as long as there is no eating and drinking or singing, all of which create more droplets in the air. If you’re going to be closer, exchanging gifts perhaps, best to put on a mask. 

Wearing a mask in the cold can make is less effective. (Mathieu Theriault/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Is a scarf a good alternative to a mask?

No. Medical experts point out that there is too much variation in scarves and neck gaiters for them to be used as masks. Stitching can be too loose and the material too thin to be an effective barrier to potentially infected droplets — both going out or coming in.

But both physicians agree it might keep your mask from freezing and therefore be more comfortable for the wearer to put a scarf up over it.

Cold temps bring runny noses. Here’s how to deal with that joy when you’re wearing a mask. 

Unfortunately, people tend to pull their mask aside or off when they sneeze or cough, which kind of defeats the purpose of it, Chagla said. 

“It is horrible to sneeze in a mask,” he said. “I give you that.” But he urges people to make sure they are in an area away from people if they are going to pull it off to sneeze, or even to blow their nose, as that is one of the best ways to spread infection. 

And be careful when you pull your mask aside to blow your nose. Don’t let it get snotty, both doctors say, and after blowing your nose, sanitize your hands before you replace your mask. 

So with all the issues with masks, is it best just to stay indoors this winter?

The resounding answer to this one is no. On the contrary.  

“The indoor stuff is like a hundred times more worrisome than the outdoor stuff,” Chagla said.  

He cites factors including poor ventilation, crowded rooms, people being together for prolonged periods of time, eating and drinking together. 

He said this year, people are going to have to change the way they think about socializing if they don’t want to just get stuck for months with the people they live with or having nothing but virtual get-togethers. 

“I think we have to start changing our attitudes and saying the outdoors is going to be the way. We just have to make it appropriate for people to do it.”

Municipalities across the country are coming up with guidelines for outdoor activities, such as skating, to make sure they don’t get too crowded. Many are restricting the number of people allowed on the ice at any given time in order to better maintain a safe distance between skaters, with some bringing in online pre-registration to book ice time.

If you go, change your skates in the car or out on a bench, rather than in a public hut, Oughton said.

It’s best to put your skates on outside, or in your own vehicle, rather than in a public hut. (Evan Mitsui/CBC News)

Among other outdoor measures, Toronto is also adding an additional 60 kilometres of paved recreational trails and pathways with snow maintenance and is encouraging communities to apply for permits to build and maintain new rinks. 

The City of Calgary is also adding to its outdoor options with the North Glenmore Ice Trail,  where people can skate 730 metres of connected track and the installation of fire pits in key spots around the city.

Todd Reichardt, a Calgary parks manager, said the plans should enable people to maintain social distance and make the most of the season. 

“There’s something about being outside when it’s cold and you smell like wood smoke,” he said. “It just puts a smile on people’s faces.” 

In Manitoba, ski resorts have been working on plans to make skiing a safe pandemic activity, while Montreal is setting up cross-country ski trails at each of the city’s large parks, as well as trails for snowshoeing and walking. 

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Alta. COVID-19 numbers back to early-Dec. levels, health-care system still under strain: Hinshaw – CTV Edmonton

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EDMONTON —
Although more than 11,000 Albertans have been fully immunized for COVID-19 and infection and hospitalization rates are falling, officials are warning the province’s health-care system is still stressed.

In total, the province has administered more than 101,000 shots since December, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health said Wednesday.  

That afternoon, Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 459 new cases of COVID-19. On Tuesday, labs conducted some 12,800 tests, leaving Alberta with a positivity rate of 3.6 per cent.

Hospitalizations, too, have dropped – but, Hinshaw said, not enough to significantly reduce the strain on Alberta’s health care system or justify easing restrictions.

Of news that several more businesses were defying public health orders with support of their local community and leadership, Hinshaw said the action could jeopardize Alberta’s recent progress.

“What I would say to those leaders is to think about not just what they see in front of them in their own town but to look at the province, and to recognize that every action that we take as individuals has repercussions and connections to our own communities and to the communities around us. And unfortunately, what we saw in the fall is that when we did take early targeted steps to try to minimize risk but not have businesses close, we continued to see our cases climb,” Hinshaw said.

She reminded the public that on Dec. 30, Alberta’s COVID-19 hospitalizations peaked at 943 people. Of those, 155 were in ICUs.

On Wednesday, Hinshaw said, 604 Albertans were in hospitals with the disease, 110 of whom were in intensive care units.

But the numbers are only on par with those seen on Dec. 4.

“This is encouraging news, and a signal that we are making meaningful progress,” Hinshaw said.

“We saw our health-care system come very close to a tipping point. We want to avoid that and we need to make sure that we are taking slow measured steps.”

She added Alberta Health was working on a “framework” that would help Albertans keep track of the metrics that would trigger more reopenings.

VARIANT, VACCINE UPDATE

There are 8,203 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta.

To date, more than 112,500 Albertans have recovered from the disease.

With the addition of 12 more deaths on Wednesday, the province’s death tally rose to 1,599.

Hinshaw had no update on Alberta’s so far single, unsourced B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant case, for which officials have found no transmission outside the person’s household.

“The knowledge that this particular variant of concern has been showing up in some other provinces and other countries around the world as a part of community transmission is concerning, and it does need to be factored into our decisions about timing of reopening,” Hinshaw told reporters. “Because if we do enable more activities, more opportunities for people to be in close contact with one another, we could potentially see quicker spreads if the variant is here in more locations than we currently are aware of.”

According to the latest data, reported at the beginning of the week, Alberta labs have confirmed 25 cases of the B.1.1.7 and 501Y-V2 strains first identified in the U.K. and South Africa. All but the one case have been linked to international travel.

Officials are calling immunization a key component of Alberta’s ability to prepare for any spread of two new strains, but say the work is hampered by vaccine supply delays.

Hinshaw said some Albertans who are eligible for a second dose may not yet have been given an appointment because the province is waiting to confirm its supplies arriving in two weeks.

However, she said the goal was to still administer all second shots within the maximum interval tested.

“While I can’t say with certainty at this point, what I can say is that everything possible will be done to provide that second dose to all who have had the first dose within that 42-day period.”

The top doctor asked for all those waiting to remain patient with the system and province. 

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B.C.'s COVID-19 updates for Jan. 27 | Columbia Valley, Cranbrook, East Kootenay, Elk Valley, Kimberley, Ktunaxa Nation – E-Know.ca

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B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, Minister of Health, today (Jan. 27) issued the following joint statement regarding updates on the COVID-19 response in British Columbia.

Today, we are reporting 485 new cases, for a total of 65,719 cases in British Columbia.

There are 4,299 active cases of COVID-19 in the province. There are 303 individuals currently hospitalized with COVID-19, 74 of whom are in intensive care. The remaining people are recovering at home in self-isolation.

Currently, 6,520 people are under active public health monitoring as a result of identified exposure to known cases and a further 58,778 people who tested positive have recovered.

Since we last reported, we have had 115 new cases of COVID-19 in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, 210 new cases in the Fraser Health region, 45 in the Island Health region, 83 in the Interior Health region, 32 in the Northern Health region and no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada.

To date, 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in B.C., 4,160 of which are second doses. Immunization data is available on the COVID-19 dashboard at: www.bccdc.ca

There have been four new COVID-19 related deaths, for a total of 1,172 deaths in British Columbia. We offer our condolences to everyone who has lost their loved ones during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We have one new health-care facility outbreak at Glenwood Seniors Community and the outbreak at Villa Cathay is now over. There is also an outbreak at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre.

We continue to see new community clusters around the province – in the Fernie and Williams Lake regions, and elsewhere. These hot spots show, once again, how easily the virus spreads between us.

One year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in our province. Since that day, the impact has been severe; people have become seriously ill and died, our lives have been disrupted and health-care workers everywhere have faced challenges at a scale never experienced before.

In response, people throughout the province have stepped up to put normal routines and activities aside, doing all they can to protect our communities, elders and loved ones. Thank you.

When we are tired, it is easy to let things slip and let our guard down. Yet this only gives the virus a chance to spread a bit more. In these days – when COVID-19 vaccinations are starting, but for most of us are still weeks or months away – the actions we take may seem small, but will ave a big impact to stop the virus in its tracks.

“If you are in the grocery store, follow the pathways and arrows and be sure to give people space at the check-out. If you are going to work or school, remember to wash your hands often throughout the day and wear your mask.

The more people you see and the more places you go, the higher the risk is to you and those around you, which is why gatherings of any size are on pause right now. If you are invited over to spend time with a friend, choose to go outside for a walk instead. And, just as important, if you are thinking about travelling beyond your community for anything other than what is essential for work or medical care, stay home.

Let’s encourage those around us to do the right thing and show kindness and compassion to those who appear not to be.

As we have seen over the past year, one case can turn into thousands. But just as important, the effort we put into keeping ourselves and each other safe can also push our COVID-19 curve back down again.

Lead image: Sanitization station at an entrance to the Prestige Inn and Fire and Oak Restaurant in Cranbrook. Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW photo

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45 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Island Health – CHEK

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British Columbia health officials have reported 485 new cases – including 45 in Island Health – and four deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

The number of confirmed cases in B.C. climbs to 65,719 while the province’s death toll now stands at 1,172.

Of the new cases, 115 were recorded in Vancouver Coastal Health, 210 were in Fraser Health, 45 in Island Health, 83 in Interior Health, and 32 in Northern Health.

There are currently 4,299 active cases in the province, 303 people in hospital — 74 of whom are in intensive care — and 6,520 people under active public health monitoring due to possible exposure to an identified case.

A total of 58,778 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 and 124,365 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across, 4,160 of which are second doses.

Today’s data was released by health officials in a statement to the media.

More to come

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