Meili encourages use of cloth masks to protect from spread of COVID-19

Masks not a substitute for social distancing, Meili cautions, adding that surgical and N95 masks should not be used but should be saved for medical professionals.

Ryan Meili spoke from his home about the province's COVID-19 response on March 20, 2020. Screen capture.

In another one of his YouTube press conferences on Sunday, opposition NDP leader Ryan Meili encouraged people to use cloth masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Evidence, he said, points in the direction that is better than not using masks in public when you have to be in contact with others. As well, on his personal YouTube channel Meili has posted some videos on making and taking off cloth masks.

“What we are learning now as we look at the science as we know it to date is there is a role for the wearing of personal masks and protecting yourself and probably, more importantly, protecting those around you,” Meili said.

He explained that there has been a number of mixed messages on the subject. When asked about contradicting the message of the federal government and health authorities he said that evidence is developing and coming from around the world. He said Federal Medical Health Officer Dr. Teresa Tam is reviewing the evidence.

“We think it is time to have a real simple message that masks are useful but they should not be taking away masks from healthcare providers,” he said.

“I think there are times when we have to respond to what the public is asking for and people really want to know the clear message here. Absolutely 100 per cent we stay with what Dr. Tam has had to say. We should not be taking away masks from healthcare workers. But there is good evidence that using a mask of your own, a cloth mask, is a helpful addition in protecting yourself and more importantly protecting those around you,” Meili said.

He encouraged the use of cloth masks — not masks identified for healthcare or essential work usage. He also emphasized it is not a replacement for other physical distancing.

“A mask can really help you prevent passing on the virus by coughing or sneezing or other ways of sending out droplets. That can really be a helpful way of reducing the spread of the virus. If used properly they can really help. The key points though and the key things that I want to emphasize, yes we encourage people to use a personal mask when they are out in public when they come in contact with other people. It is a good thing for people to do, it helps,” he said.

He emphasized using them safely.

“We have put some videos together on how to make masks and also how to take them off properly so you don’t wind up potentially making things worse by touching the virus that was on the front of your mask after you have been out and about. And there are steps to take to avoid causing infection with the masks,”

Other things that he emphasized were that healthcare masks like N95s and surgical masks are for healthcare workers and should not be used as public masks.

He explained that a cloth mask can be made or found online and he wants to see more produced locally.

” And then the other thing to think about as we think about the importance and make sure that masks are available for folks on the front lines. That becomes even more important as we see what President Trump is up to trying to prevent 3M from sending N95s to Canada makes it even clearer why we need to make sure every healthcare mask is with healthcare folks. And the other really important thing that we want to emphasize very strongly is that having a mask is not a replacement for not shaking hands, washing your hands regularly and staying home avoiding physical, avoiding contact with other people,” he said.

Before beginning his talk he discussed how impressed he is by Saskatchewan people for using correct practices.

“Saskatchewan people are working really hard to avoid being into contact with each other, they are staying home, they are practicing physical distancing, they are doing a great job with that and it is really incredible to see,” Meili said.