Richmond medical health officer says COVID transmissions reported even when people wear masks

Masks may not be enough

Richmond is considering mandatory masks in city-run facilities – but one public health doctor warns there have been transmissions of COVID-19 between people wearing masks.

Dr. Meena Dawar, Richmond's medical health officer, told the Richmond Community COVID-19 Task Force on Tuesday that evidence is coming out in support of wearing masks, but there are other prevention measures that are even more beneficial, like physical distancing and keeping interactions low. 

“The evidence is building in support of masks,” Dawar said, but they are usually recommended when other measures can’t be taken, for example, at certain workplaces.

“The concern that we continue to have with masks is that (in) a number of cases that have been reported to us, people have been wearing masks,” she added. “Masks don’t stop transmission, particularly non-medical masks.”

She added masks offer some protection, but how much is still unclear.

Council is expecting a report back on mandatory masks in city facilities in the next few weeks. Coun. Bill McNulty brought the motion forward in early September and it was endorsed by all of council.

Masks required in only some circumstances at school

With schools back in session, some parents have been calling for mandatory masks. They are only required in certain high-traffic areas, but Richmond school district superintendent Scott Robinson said he has heard anecdotally they are being worn widely throughout the district’s schools.

Many students arriving at Brighouse elementary last Friday were wearing masks and some were even wearing face shields.

Edna Tai said her son Robin, who started Grade 5 at Brighouse elementary last week, will wear a mask all day.

“I think it’s safer to wear a mask,” she explained. While she’s worried about her son being in school during the pandemic, she said he’s had a “good start” and she was reassured by information from his teacher and principal sent out prior to school starting.

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