Calgary mask wearing surged near 90% after city rules kicked in: report

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Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a Calgary family physician and urgent care doctor, answers Calgary City Council questions as councillors begin the debate on possible mandatory mask rules on Monday, July 20, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia
Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a Calgary family physician and urgent care doctor, answers Calgary City Council questions as councillors begin the debate on possible mandatory mask rules on Monday, July 20, 2020. Gavin Young/Postmedia Gavin Young/Postmedia

Dr. Raj Bhardwaj, a local physician who urged city council to craft mask rules in July, said despite the current numbers, Calgary hasn’t seen major transmission from places where people now typically wear masks.

“There hasn’t been a big transmission event off transit in Calgary,” he said. “However, there have been big transmission events out of restaurants, where clearly people are not wearing masks because they’re eating. … And at private parties, where I would say probably they’re not wearing masks.”

There’s also growing evidence that cloth masks can not only reduce the respiratory droplets you launch into the air when you talk, cough or sneeze, but wearing a mask could also limit the amount of potentially virus-laden droplets you might breathe in. And being exposed to less virus could mean a less severe infection.

Bhardwaj said face coverings are critical as in-person classes start again.

“There’s a political will to not shut things down. And because of that, we are saying, ‘OK, we are going to use this less painful tool to try to keep the numbers down.’ And that less painful tool is masking.”

Dr. Amy Tan, an associate professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, has been a volunteer organizer with the Alberta chapter of Masks4Canada, a group that advocates for masks as a way to reduce COVID-19 transmission.

Tan said it’s not the time to ease up on any measures to drive infections down.

People are wearing masks and face shields while spending time in Downtown Calgary on Monday, August 10, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia
People are wearing masks and face shields while spending time in Downtown Calgary on Monday, August 10, 2020. Azin Ghaffari/Postmedia jpg

“What has also emerged in the last month is that COVID causes long-term effects — all the more reason to do everything we can to decrease your own risk and the community’s risk,” she said. “We’re talking not just about deaths and ICU admissions. People are suffering with this disease.”

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