10,000 signatures reached
To: Canadian MPs, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos
The Canadian Government Needs to Distribute Free N95 Masks to the Provinces
Although progress is being made across Canada in seeing fewer deaths per Omicron infection thanks to vaccinations, boosters, and new treatments, increasingly transmissible and immune-evasive Omicron variants combined with reduced public health measures have driven current infection levels to 15-20 times above last year's level (IHME). This is actually resulting in MORE hospitalizations and deaths than previous years, despite higher vaccination and infection-induced immunity levels.
On top of this, the outlook for this fall and winter is concerning on several fronts, as expressed by PHAC, experts around the world, and several CMOH's:
- new variants like BQ.1.1 and XBB are expected to evade vaccines and previous infection immunity even more and outcompete BA.5, leading to more infections and potential erosion of treatments for the most vulnerable
- the indoor fall and winter seasons are Canada's highest risk period for both covid and flu infections
- hospitals are already under strain and facing great uncertainty due to a combination of staffing shortages and incoming demands for health care
- there is increasing concern among experts and medical professionals on how millions of infections, even milder ones, might affect the stability of the economy and health care system as "long covid" post-infection health issues affect the available labour force and its productivity.
Vaccines have helped reduce the spread and severity of Omicron but they have limits - their benefits wane over time and timely uptake of boosters in Canada remains an issue. Bivalent vaccines based on BA.1 or BA.5 will help but no expert expects a quantum leap against the newest emerging variants. Ongoing data on infections, hospitalizations, and deaths underlines the fact that vaccines alone are not enough and that will become even more obvious this winter without further action.
There is one available protection that avoids lockdowns and stricter measures, has been proven to be effective in reducing infections, is benign, cannot be evaded by new variants, and adds little burden to the freedom of Canadians: masks.
Some CMOH's like Ontario's have already hinted at the potential return of targeted mask mandates as they monitor the situation. While not the specific purpose of this petition, a return of mask mandates to mitigate the worst of what wave(s) lie ahead makes sense since mask wearing has dropped from 70-80% to about 10% since mandates were dropped. And despite debate on this from some quarters, mandates have been shown to work in reducing risk for everyone, including the most vulnerable, by helping to limit transmission both at the source and the receiver.
What needs to be done:
We need to urgently distribute N95 masks to the provinces.
Omicron's increased transmissibility through the air makes cloth and surgical blue masks less effective now. Studies over the past year have highlighted the superior proven performance of technologically-advanced N95 masks over both cloth and blue surgical masks. I encourage you to see my summary thread, pinned to my twitter page, Bill Comeau @Billius27, for a fuller description of the evidence, including how they work, their comfort, and how to wear and reuse them.
One study cited by the CDC even saw covid infections drop by 83% for those wearing N95 masks, higher than either surgical or cloth. A recent Swiss study found healthcare workers had reduced infections with N95s compared to surgical masks. Top aerosol scientists strongly encourage the public use of N95 respirator masks.
These "respirator" masks work best against an airborne risk like Omicron and have been recommended by PHAC, the CDC, and many other experts. They will also work to significantly reduce flu transmission at the same time. Hospitals will undoubtedly face lower load with the general public using more protective masks this winter. There can also be a multiplier effect when we recognize that the more marginalized typically have higher infection rates, are key to the labour force economy, and are also those least able to afford N95 masks.
This is why I am asking the federal government to urgently take the lead and, like the US has done before, distribute free N95 masks to the provinces.
Working in coordination with the provinces on future mask mandates and communications, a distribution of N95 masks may prove to be more important than even the rapid test supplies that have proven very useful over the past year.
The road to a healthy and economically prosperous Canada is not built by itself, leadership through this difficult fall and winter covid and flu season can help pave the way to a Canada that is truly managing its way out of this pandemic stage.
Let's help give Canadians the added protection they need this fall and winter - high quality N95 masks.
Why is this important?
I hope you join me in this campaign. I'm asking for your help.
I have heard from many families and vulnerable people now unsure on how they can remain safe this winter, or how to protect their grandparents or their family members. They have to work or go to school, some are low-income seniors unable to afford better masks, or disabled struggling to get by and laughing at the idea that they can afford better masks.
I hear from vulnerable people concerned that others around them are maskless and coughing or ill. Some don't even know there are better masks. They need our help now. They deserve health equity. And if provincial mask mandates come this fall or winter, which I expect, let's make them work better.
You can help by signing this petition.
If you want to learn more about masks and N95 respirators, you can check out the pinned thread at the top of my twitter page, Bill Comeau @Billius27.