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HPPH recommends cloth masks over plastic ‘mingle masks’ for better source protection

HURON-PERTH – During a Huron Perth Public Health (HPPH) media briefing on Nov. 24, Dr. Miriam Klassen, Huron-Perth’s medical officer of health, announced five new COVID-19 cases. This brings the total to 283 for the region, 39 of which are currently active.

There are no active outbreaks in schools, childcare centres or long-term care homes but Cedarcroft Place Retirement Home in Stratford remains in outbreak.

There are four people in the area hospitalized with COVID-19 – two related to Cedarcroft and two community members. During the Cedarcroft outbreak, 25 residents, many of whom were COVID negative, were decanted from the home to area hospitals to ensure they were able to get proper care. Twenty-two of those individuals remain in hospital.

“Our staffing situation has very much stabilized and we feel we have sufficient staff to meet the needs of all of our returning residents,” said Lilly Goodman, chief operating officer All Seniors Care Living Centres, the company which operates Cedarcroft.

“Concerning the Cedarcroft outbreak, the current status is 44 confirmed cases in residents and 19 cases in staff,” said Klassen.

“Of residents, unfortunately, there have been 11 deaths. On behalf of HPPH staff, I do extend condolences to all the families as well as the staff members on their loss. The total residents who remain active are four at Cedarcroft and two in hospital and the total number of residents recovered are 27. In terms of staff, the total number of staff cases are 19 … the total number of active staff cases is zero.”

The fourth round of prevalence testing has been completed on residents and all the results came back negative. The fourth round of testing on staff was completed Nov. 23 and results are pending.

“I’m pleased to see how many residents of Huron Perth have incorporated mask-wearing into their day-to-day life,” said Klassen.

“This is one of the added layers of protection to reduce virus spread as we continue to follow the fundamental Public Health measures of staying home when you are ill, being screened when you enter into other facilities, keeping the six feet of distance from others and washing hands frequently.”

Klassen addressed the issue of plastic masks.

“There are several products on the market, such as the so-called ‘mingle mask,’ which loosely meet the requirements for masking under provincial legislation and HPPH public health instructions,” she said.

“These masks cover the nose, mouth and chin but do not fit tightly which means droplets can escape from your mouth and nose. We are wearing masks as source protection which is a way to avoid spreading our droplets to others.”

Klassen realizes some individuals cannot wear a fitted mask for medical reasons and choose to wear a plastic one, but HPPH is not recommending those masks.

“If you do not have a medical exemption but do feel awkward or uncomfortable with cloth fitted masks I would echo the recommendations of our local primary care earlier this year,” she said before listing recommendations from the Huron Perth Ontario Health Team Physician Advisory Council joint statement on mask exemptions:

  • Try different mask formats and materials to see if you can find one you can tolerate better.
  • Try using the mask for short periods around the home and slowly increase the duration of wear until you can tolerate it better.
  • See a counsellor for support, tips advice, desensitization and even cognitive behaviour therapy.

Regarding the recent cluster cases in smaller communities throughout Perth County, such as North Perth and Perth East, Klassen said many of the cases are epidemiologically linked in households.

“It’s been social interactions that have been driving those numbers,” she said.

Klassen said Huron-Perth will likely have to remain in the orange (restrict) COVID-19 alert level for at least two to four weeks.

“You generally need to wait an incubation period to see if (the change) has an impact,” she said.

“Having said that, we went from yellow to orange with only one week in between because the numbers were continuing to escalate so much. Not just here but across the province. I think the whole province was feeling like we had to move faster to get ahead of it because once the numbers escalate it is exponential, it’s harder to get control. So these numbers are reviewed weekly by the province but it is expected you are likely to stay in a level on average four weeks.”

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.