Point Edward, ON – Today, Lambton Public Health released a technical brief examining the case for mandatory mask use to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At this time in Lambton County, evidence and local context does not support the mandatory public use of masks in a community setting.
In examining the case for mandatory masking orders under the Health Promotion and Protection Act, or by way of municipal By-Laws, the technical brief examines the following information:
- Lambton County is a community with low population density. Physical distancing can be maintained in most (not all) settings. Lambton County’s population density is 42 people/km2 which is significantly lower compared to many other communities such as Windsor (322 people/km2), London (186 people/km2), Wellington County (82 people/km2) and Toronto (4334 people/km2).
- Evidence consists of models and studies with more focus on healthcare versus community settings. Simple cloth masks can be made or purchased at low cost but none of the studies have demonstrated their effectiveness. Early modeling studies show a reduction in COVID-19 transmission with mask use in addition to other public health measures (ie. physical distancing, proper hygiene)[i]. Mask use was most effective when:
- >80% of people use them correctly
- Used early enough in an outbreak situation
- Used as an addition to other public health measures
- Reaching compliance to wear masks correctly is compounded by several factors including:
- Equity concerns with an increased burden on people that may not be able to afford/access masks, not able to wear masks, and those denied access to critical needs as a result of not masking.
- Enforcement is a significant challenge due to limited resources.
“At this point in time, there is limited direct evidence of benefit and low certainty of benefit for mandatory masking in a community our size,” said Dr. Ranade, Medical Officer of Health for the County of Lambton. “Other public health measures continue to be effective to reduce disease transmission through physical distancing, efficient case and contact identification, and self-isolation.”
Where physical distancing may be challenging or not possible, such as while using public transportation, visiting smaller grocery stores or pharmacies, or in a small, confined space with poor ventilation, people can consider wearing non-medical masks or face coverings. Most importantly, people should stay at home when ill. The most common source of transmission of COVID-19 in Lambton County occurs between close contacts (such as household members or during social activities) and outbreaks in institutional settings.
At its regular meeting on July 8, Lambton County Council declared its support and encouragement for those who can do so, to wear masks that cover their mouth, nose and chin in public indoor settings where physical distance cannot be achieved.
Visit LambtonPublicHealth.ca to view current local COVID-19 information, including the technical brief examining the case for mandatory mask use in Lambton County.
Lambton Public Health
[i] Stutt, R., Retkute, R., Bradley, M., Gilligan, C., & Colvin, J. (2020). A modelling framework to assess the likely effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lock-down’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Proceedings Of The Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical And Engineering Sciences, 476(2238), 20200376. doi: 10.1098/rspa.2020.0376