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Why attitudes toward mask wearing are quickly changing in Canada and the U.S. – CBC.ca

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Societal attitudes in Canada and the U.S. toward wearing masks in public as protection against COVID-19 have undergone an “unprecedented’ shift in just a matter of months, some social psychologists say.

“As somebody who studies social norms, it’s astonishing. It’s like a flip in a blink of an eye in terms of this change,” said Catherine Sanderson, a social psychology professor at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

“I actually think that’s because of the unprecedented nature of what happened. And so I think what we’ve seen is that this is just an unprecedented time. And that’s something that leads to very, very fast shifts.”

In some East Asian countries, mask wearing has been recommended or required since the start of the pandemic.

It’s already an accepted practice in some countries, including China, South Korea and Japan, to wear masks when one is sick or to protect against infection during cold and flu seasons or to protect against air pollution.

And while the effectiveness of masks continues to be a source of debate within the scientific community, more people are embracing the idea in the U.S. and Canada, a number of surveys reveal.

Health Canada has said homemade masks might reduce the spread of the wearer’s infectious droplets to others but may not provide complete protection against “virus-sized particles,” in part because of variations in the way they fit and the materials people are using to make them and their relative potential to block those particles.

N95 respirators, which are recommended primarily for health-care workers, on the other hand, can protect the wearer against respiratory viruses, such as the novel coronavirus, when they are worn correctly and form a seal around the nose and mouth.

WATCH | What you need to know before wearing a mask:

Dr. Samir Gupta provides crucial information about wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic and what to think about before putting one on. 2:30

Surge in Canadians wearing masks

In a two-week period in April, the percentage of Canadians wearing some sort of a protective mask in public rose from one-fifth to one-third, according to an online poll of 2,015 Canadians commissioned by the Association for Canadian Studies, a non-profit organization.

Another recent online poll conducted May 6 by DART & Maru/Blue found that 65 per cent of the 1,513 randomly selected Canadians surveyed agreed they must wear a mask or face covering whenever they are outside the home and among other people. And 81 per cent said that a person must wear a mask at all times in barber shops, hair salons and nail salons. 

In the United States, polls have also revealed surge-like support for wearing masks. 

“It’s fascinating in two months how much behaviour can change and really turn on a dime,” said Toni Schmader, a social psychology professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

The U.S.-based online marketplace Etsy says its total sales doubled in April, in large part due to face mask sales. (Etsy)

Not only are individuals opting to wear masks, a growing number of retailers are requiring or requesting shoppers wear a face covering in their stores. And starting Monday, Uber will require all drivers and passengers wear masks.

Meanwhile, stores such as Old Navy and the Disney Store are selling fashion masks. The U.S.-based online marketplace Etsy says its total sales doubled in April, in large part because of face mask sales, The Verge website reported.

This increased demand for masks is in part likely the result of a number of health officials declaring the importance of wearing masks in public. In the U.S. and Canada, there were two key policy shifts. At the beginning of the pandemic, neither the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention nor Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, had advocated the use of masks in public.

New wisdom on masks

But in early April, the CDC, followed by Tam days later, said that new studies on the subject prompted a shift in mask advice. The agency now recommends the use of face masks in public places where physical distancing is difficult to maintain.

Shortly after the CDC announcement, Gallup found that the percentage of Americans who reported that they had worn a mask outside of their homes has increased from 38 per cent to 62 per cent in just one week.

“Wearing a mask is new. It’s different. It’s not something that most of us have done. But what we also know is that behaviour can change very, very fast under particular circumstances,” Sanderson said. 

“What we know is that when there’s clear health evidence, things change very fast.”

About 25 per cent of the population needs to engage in an activity in order for the majority of people to change their behaviour, she said.

WATCH | How much protection do gloves and masks provide?:

‘The point of the mask,’ says Christopher Labos, ‘is to protect others from you,’ especially if you are an asymptomatic carrier of the virus. 2:58

‘Creates the tipping point’

And that creates the tipping point. So, you don’t need everybody to do it, but you need enough people to do it so you sway it.”

As well, you need particular people doing that new behaviour, she said.

“You really do need role models, whether that’s celebrities or presidents,  prime ministers, athletes, actors — you need people who are sort of trend setters, social Influencers, but at a broader level.”

Stores like The Disney Store and Old Navy are responding to consumer demand and selling fashionable masks. (The Disney Store)

Schmader agreed that a significant key in changing behaviour of individuals is having them feel like the norms of people around them support that behaviour.

“Because a lot of times the things that we know are good for us still don’t motivate our own behaviour. Unless we see everyone else doing it.

She said wearing seatbelts, although mandated by the government, was behaviour that people readily adapted to in a fairly shot period of time.

However, Jack Jedwab, president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said the poll the association commissioned indicated that fear and anxiety are what’s prompting more people in Canada to wear masks.

I think health officials encouraging you to wear masks gives it more legitimacy,” he said. “At the same time, I think it’s the degree to which you are fearful of getting the contagion that probably is more of a determining factor.”

If you chose to wear a reusable mask make sure to follow these steps. (CBC)

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Canada has an army of volunteers ready to help fight COVID-19 — so why aren't we using them? – CBC.ca

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Thousands of Canadians have volunteered their time to help track COVID-19 cases across the country, but even Canada’s hardest-hit provinces haven’t used them.

The National COVID-19 Volunteer Recruitment Campaign was launched by the federal government in early April, calling on Canadians from coast-to-coast to step up and help. 

“We need you!” the campaign urgently stated. 

“We are building an inventory of volunteers from which provincial and territorial governments can draw upon as needed. We welcome ALL volunteers as we are looking for a wide variety of experiences and expertise.” 

Canada’s chief public health officer, Theresa Tam, tweeted the campaign on April 12 to Canadians wondering how they could help with the COVID-19 response. 

Volunteers were called on to help with three key areas: case tracking and contact tracing, assessing health system surge capacity, and case data collection and reporting. 

Health Canada and The Public Health Agency of Canada said 53,769 people signed up to assist in the effort by the time the posting closed on April 24. 

But weeks later, the volunteer database does not appear to have been used in any province or territory — even in Ontario and Quebec, where 90 per cent of Canada’s new COVID-19 cases are now occurring.

“As contact tracing responsibilities fall under each provincial and territorial jurisdiction, they are determining when and how they will train and deploy volunteers to meet their evolving needs,” a spokesperson for Health Canada and PHAC said.

CBC News reached out to every provincial and territorial health ministry in the country and none could confirm they had used any of the volunteers.

Health Canada said it also shared names from the volunteer database with the Canadian Red Cross to help personnel in long-term care facilities. 

But a spokesperson for the organization said they have only “recently started the initial process of reaching out to some of the individuals who submitted their names.”


This is an excerpt from Second Opinion, a weekly roundup of eclectic and under-the-radar health and medical science news emailed to subscribers every Saturday morning. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can do that by clicking here.


Canadians ready to help

Toronto teacher Shalini Basu found herself unexpectedly unemployed due to the global coronavirus pandemic, after her contract ended in March and schools across Ontario closed for the remainder of the school year. 

“I read about volunteers for the database on Twitter and thought it would be a great way to use my time and be useful, seeing as though I have a lot of free time these days,” she said.

“I follow the news very closely and it seemed like there was an urgent need for volunteers.” 

She filled out an extensive questionnaire online and was excited to help at a time when there wasn’t much else she could do for others — aside from staying home. 

But Basu still hasn’t heard anything. 

Volunteers said they were extensively questioned on whether they had medical experience, military experience and even veterinary experience to gauge where they could be best put to use. 

But despite calling on people with a “wide variety of expertise,” many volunteers are left wondering who exactly the federal government was hoping to use. 

“I hope by not being called it also means that a lot of Canadians applied and they filled their quota,” Basu said. 

“I’ve been wondering how much this initiative actually got underway.”

More than 53,000 people signed up to volunteer from April 12 to 24. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Paul Baker also wanted to help. 

The retired Guelph, Ont., senior has a background in marketing and felt he could be put to use reaching out to confirmed COVID-19 cases by phone to help track their close contacts. 

“There is that first step that’s got to be taken in contact tracing, which is calling the person that’s positive and they know they’re positive, so it’s not going to be a stressful situation,” he said. 

“Then you turn that over to somebody who’s got more training in how to actually call somebody and say, ‘You might be COVID positive.'” 

Baker spent 45 minutes filling out the questionnaire, and hoped to be called on to help in other areas of the province or the country that had a high volume of new cases or outbreaks in long-term care homes.

But weeks later, he hasn’t received an update. 

‘Federal-provincial divide’

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor at the University of Ottawa, says the motivation for the campaign was commendable and compared it to a “wartime effort.” 

“Congratulations to the government for having that initiative up front, because they recognize contact tracing would be a big part of this,” he said. 

“But there clearly wasn’t a subsequent plan to use the roster in a strategic way and there wasn’t a subsequent plan to navigate the federal-provincial divide.” 

Because each province and territory has individual public health units that allocate resources and make decisions at a local level, Deonandan says a national database of volunteers would be challenging to roll out effectively. 

“I’m not really surprised,” he said.

Even one of his PhD students in epidemiology volunteered and never heard back, Deonandan said.

“What needs to happen, obviously, is for the provinces to take over the contact tracing capacity in a meaningful way and maybe even restart the volunteer rostering process — because I’m still getting people contacting me asking how they can get involved.” 

While more advanced interventions could be left to professionals, volunteers feel they could help make initial contact with COVID-19 patients over the phone to trace their close contacts. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto, has been calling on Ontario to step up contact tracing as the province continues to move toward reopening despite a steady stream of high caseloads

“Anyone who knows what it’s like to go after something, can use a telephone and has a high school education can be trained to do the work,” he said. Both his parents — one of whom is a university professor — had volunteered and never heard back.

“I think public health is so overwhelmed that even managing a bunch of new people, whether they’re hired or volunteers, is probably something they can’t handle.” 

Contact tracing key to stopping spread 

A recent study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found isolating positive cases and contact tracing played a key role in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Shenzen, China.  

Patients that were found to have COVID-19 because they reported symptoms of the disease were identified at an average of 4.6 days after they reported getting sick. 

But contact tracing of those close to them, such as in the same household, reduced that time to just 2.7 days on average. 

Another recent study published by JAMA Internal Medicine examined the first 100 confirmed COVID-19 patients in Taiwan and found they were most infectious in the days leading up to showing symptoms and in the five days after. 

That study stresses the need to identify potential cases that may have been unknowingly exposed, but not know they’re sick yet, to effectively contain the spread of the disease.

“These findings underscore the pressing public health need for accurate and comprehensive contact tracing and testing,” Robert Steinbrook wrote in an editor’s note. “Testing only those people who are symptomatic will miss many infections and render contact tracing less effective.”

Ontario needs to increase contact tracing in order to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the province, says Dr. Michael Warner. 9:11

The World Health Organization also says contact tracing is “an essential public health tool for controlling infectious disease outbreaks” that can “break the chains of transmission” of COVID-19.  

Volunteers could help not only with tracing contacts of COVID-19 patients, but also with cutting down the time it takes to notify public health units of positive cases, Warner said. 

“One of the biggest sources of a lag in effective contact tracing is the time it takes from the moment the patient is swabbed to the time that piece of paper arrives in the fax machine at the public health office,” he said. 

“We’ve got we’ve got people on the bench willing to work, but they probably don’t even have the capacity to open that list and look at those names because they can’t even do the job they’ve been tasked to do.”


To read the entire Second Opinion newsletter every Saturday morning, subscribe by clicking here.

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Provincial border bans during pandemic anger barred Canadians, spark lawsuits – CBC.ca

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Lesley Shannon of Vancouver was infuriated when New Brunswick rejected her request last month to enter the province to attend her mother’s burial. 

“I’m mystified, heartbroken and angry,” said Shannon on Wednesday. “They’re basically saying my mother’s life has no value.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and the three territories have temporarily barred Canadian visitors from entering their borders unless they meet specific criteria, such as travelling for medical treatment. 

The provinces and territories say the extreme measures are necessary to protect their residents from the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness. 

But the border bans have fuelled criticism from civil rights advocates who argue barring fellow Canadians is unconstitutional. The travel restrictions have also angered Canadians denied entry for travel they believe is crucial. 

“I’m not trying to go to my aunt’s or cousin’s funeral. This is my mother, my last living parent,” said Shannon, who grew up in Rothesay, N.B.

Lesley Shannon of Vancouver, right, pictured with her late mother, Lorraine, was infuriated when New Brunswick rejected her request last month to enter the province to attend her mother’s burial. (Submitted by Lesley Shannon)

Protecting health of its citizens

On Thursday, shortly after CBC News asked for comment on Shannon’s case, the New Brunswick government announced it will reopen its borders starting June 19 to Canadian travellers with immediate family or property in New Brunswick. It also plans to grant entry to people attending a close family member’s funeral or burial.

The province’s Campbellton region, however, remains off limits.

Shannon was happy to hear the news, but is unsure at this point if she’ll be allowed to enter the province in time for her mother’s burial. She would first have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival, as required the province, and the cemetery holding her mother’s body told her the burial must happen soon.

“I’m just hoping that [permission comes] fast enough for me.”

New Brunswick told CBC News that restricting out-of-province visitors has served as a key way to protect the health of its citizens.

“It’s necessary because of the threat posed by travel: all but a handful of New Brunswick’s [COVID-19] cases are travel cases,” said Shawn Berry, spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, in an email.

Legal challenges

Kim Taylor of Halifax was so upset over being denied entry in early May to attend her mother’s funeral in Newfoundland and Labrador she launched a lawsuit against the province.

“I certainly feel like the government has let me and my family down,” she said.

It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens.– John Drover, lawyer

Shortly after speaking publicly about her case, Taylor got permission to enter the province —11 days after initially being rejected. But the court challenge is still going ahead — on principle.

“It’s not right. No province in Canada can shut its borders to Canadian citizens,” alleged Taylor’s lawyer, John Drover. 

Kim Taylor said Newfoundland and Labrador’s decision to deny her entry into the province following her mother’s death exacerbated her grief. (CBC)

Violates charter, CCLA says

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has joined the lawsuit and has sent letters to each of the provinces and territories banning Canadian visitors, outlining its concerns. 

The CCLA argues provinces and territories barring Canadians violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states that every Canadian has the right to live and work in any province. 

The CCLA said if a province or territory limits those rights, its reasons must be justified. 

“So far, what we’ve seen from these governments hasn’t convinced us that there is good evidence that these limits are reasonable,” said Cara Zwibel, director of CCLA’s fundamental freedoms program.

“The existence of a virus in and of itself is not enough of a reason.”

Cara Zwibel is director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association’s fundamental freedoms program. The CCLA argues provinces and territories barring Canadians violates the country’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (Submitted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association)

Newfoundland and Labrador also face a proposed class-action lawsuit launched this month, representing Canadians denied entry who own property in the province.

“The issue that our clients take is that this [restriction] is explicitly on geographic grounds and that seems to be contrary to the Charter of Rights,” said Geoff Budden, a lawyer with the suit, which has not yet been certified.

The Newfoundland and Labrador government told CBC News it’s reviewing the lawsuits. They have both been filed in the province’s Supreme Court.

On Wednesday, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball defended the province’s travel restrictions, arguing they remain necessary to avoid spreading the virus.

“This is put in place to protect Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; it’s not about shutting people out,” he said. 

WATCH | Inside the fight against COVID-19:

[embedded content]

What about a 14-day isolation?

The rest of Canada’s provinces have each advised against non-essential travel for now but are still allowing Canadian visitors to enter their province. Nova Scotia and Manitoba, however, require that visitors self-isolate for 14 days. CCLA’s Zwibel said that rule may be a less restrictive way for a province to protect its residents during the pandemic. 

“The Charter of Rights does require that if governments do place limits on rights, they do so in a way that impairs them as little as possible,” she said. 

Back in Vancouver, a frustrated Shannon points out that New Brunswick is already allowing temporary foreign workers into the province — as long as they self-isolate for 14 days. However, her invitation is still pending.

“It’s very upsetting to think I’m less welcome in New Brunswick than somebody who was not even born in Canada,” she said.

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Ontario, Quebec continue to account for majority of Canada’s new novel coronavirus cases – Globalnews.ca

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Despite hundreds of new novel coronavirus cases still being reported in Ontario and Quebec, the number of overall cases across Canada continued to trend downward Friday.

More than 600 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 reported on Friday raised the national tally past 94,000 cases overall. More than 52,000 people are considered recovered, with more than 1.9 million tests conducted.

The national death toll went up by 66 deaths, for a total of 7,703.


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Quebec accounted for the majority of the daily death toll once again. The province has been the hardest-hit region in Canada for the past few weeks, with 55 per cent of the national caseload and nearly 5,000 deaths (more than 60 per cent of Canada’s death toll).

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Quebec reported 50 new deaths and 255 new cases on Friday. More than 17,700 people are deemed recovered in the province.

Ontario reported 344 new cases and 15 new deaths, leaving the province with nearly 30,000 cases and more than 2,300 deaths. More than 23,000 people have recovered from the virus.






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B.C. reported one new case and one new death, for a total of 2,628 cases and 167 deaths. The province has seen 2,272 people recover so far.

The Prairie provinces recorded new cases in the single digits. Alberta saw seven new cases — the lowest daily number recorded by the province since March 12.

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Manitoba reported two new cases, bringing its total to 289 cases and seven deaths, while Saskatchewan reported one new case.

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All four Atlantic provinces reported no new cases or deaths on Friday. Prince Edward Island’s 27 cases have been resolved for weeks now, Newfoundland and Labrador has two active cases left out of 261 cases and three deaths, and Nova Scotia, where 61 people have died so far, saw bars and restaurants reopen.

New Brunswick reported its first COVID-19-related death on Thursday and has mandated face coverings in public buildings. Out of 136 cases, 121 are recovered.






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The Northwest Territories and the Yukon continue to see no new cases, having resolved all their cases for some time. Nunavut remain the only region in Canada that hasn’t reported a positive case of COVID-19 so far.

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Worldwide, COVID-19 has resulted in more than 6.7 million cases and nearly 394,000 deaths, according to figures tallied by Johns Hopkins University.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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