Note from Michael, Dec. 31, 2021 (Update #1) | Mask use video and N95 testing schedule

From the desk of Dr. Michael Gardam, Health PEI CEO

Hi everybody, 

Masking and PPE use is a topic on everyone’s minds right now. We have given direction on the use of masks before, but I think it’s important to provide a really simple overview, so I recorded a video over webex for people to use to guide them (see below). It's also posted on the Staff Resource Centre COVID-19 web page.

 

My clinical career as a tuberculosis and infection control specialist has meant that the best use of masks and respirators is a topic that is near and dear to me. As I explain in the video, the right type of mask/respirator for the right situation is very important, but so is how people use them and whether people can adjust to keeping them on their face over longer periods. 

There are really three levels of mask/respirator use you’ll use in most situations: 

  1. A single medical mask. Worn properly (pinched at the nose and kept on your face) they filter larger particles out and prevent them from reaching your respiratory tract.  They are more appropriate than an N95 respirator for source control i.e. preventing the release of infectious particles from someone who is infected.  
  2. Double masking. This is just what it sounds like (and my favourite): wearing a second medical mask has been shown in laboratory studies to approach the filtration level of a respirator. The more layers that particles have to pass through, the more likely they are to get trapped before reaching your respiratory tract.  Double masking provides good protection and is far more comfortable to wear than a respirator which means people are less likely to remove them often. This is acceptable PPE (with eye protection) for caring for COVID positive patients, although a fit tested respirator is preferred, especially if performing aerosol generating medical procedures. Remember to keep the masks tight to your face.
  3. N95 respirators. I had to ditch the beard to do the video for this one! I’ve used these extensively in my clinical practice for complicated tuberculosis and we wore them for days on end during SARS at the start of my career. They are not fun to wear, and are more difficult to wear properly and leave alone on your face. Because of that, they often aren’t used properly in the real world.  To get any additional benefit from an N95 respirator it has to be worn properly, straps in the right place, and fit checked every time it is put on. And of course it has to stay on your face all the time! That’s why if I were doing clinical work I’d wear an N95 for aerosol generating procedures or for COVID-19 suspected or confirmed cases, but I’d use a medical mask or double mask for everyday use. 

FIT TESTING

If you do choose to wear an N95 respirator, fit testing is very important. Health PEI is rolling out more fit testing across the organization to facilitate this. View the schedule of fit testing happening over the coming weeks.

Please send questions, comments, or submissions for these notes to emclean@gov.pe.ca, subject line “Notes for Michael”.

Last Updated
Fri, 12/31/2021 - 11:26