Why this Calgary doctor hopes people consider continuing to wear masks after mandates are lifted

CALGARY — Alberta is just weeks away from ending its indoor mandatory mask rule, but one Calgary doctor is hoping people consider wearing one, even after all pandemic rules are lifted.

Dr. Eddy Lang is an emergency doctor and is the co-author of a study that looked into hospitalizations unrelated to COVID-19 during the first months of the pandemic compared to the previous year.

It found the public health measures meant to slow the spread of COVID-19 also worked in reducing the amount of Albertans needing to be rushed to hospital.

“What we saw was a 30 per cent reduction in hospitalizations for chronic lung disease due to smoking, called COPD, as well as pneumonia, which are also common, which were not related to COVID,” said Dr. Lang, who is also with the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.

The study looked at admissions between March and September of 2020 and found fewer people were needing to be hospitalized with complications related to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia.

There were about 2,500 fewer hospital admissions related to COPD in Alberta in the first six months of the pandemic, the study found.

“The respiratory health of Alberta has improved in the last 15 months and it’s really up to every individual if they want that to continue,” Dr. Lang said.

MASK MANDATE

Alberta will lift its mask mandate, along with all other public health measures, in Stage 3 of the reopening plan. If vaccination rates continue at the current pace, that will take place in the first week of July.

But Tyler Shandro, Alberta’s Health Minister, said there could still be recommendations for when masks should be worn in certain settings and situations. Private businesses could still require masks to be worn, too.

Calgary council will look at lifting its mandatory mask bylaw on Monday.

“I’m speculating, but I would find it hard to imagine that we would not repeal the face coverings bylaw by the end of July at the latest,” said Mayor Naheed Nenshi, though he added the city may lift its mask rules based on the percentage of Calgarians who received a second dose of the vaccine.

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