People line up at Vancouver International Airport Jan. 31, 2020. Media images of people wearing masks have fuelled hoarding and reselling of them, but public health officials say they don’t help healthy people. (The Canadian Press)

Myth of medical masks drives profiteering in B.C. COVID-19 battle

Premier John Horgan warns of ‘crackdown’ on ‘profiteers’

Images of people walking around with medical-style face masks have fed a black market for them, but the sudden popularity hasn’t helped public health in the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer says.

Dr. Bonnie Henry has been asked frequently about the value of N95 masks, so named because they stop 95 per cent of particles three microns or bigger. A coronavirus particle is one to two microns in size, and Canadian and U.S. public health authorities don’t recommend them for general consumer use. The standard disposable masks stop most droplets coming out of your mouth, but not virus particles coming in.

“So if I’m not sick, it’s not effective,” Henry said during a TV town hall meeting on the pandemic in Vancouver March 19. “It’s not something that, when I’m out in public, is going to protect me in any way. And as a matter of fact, people often fiddle with it, and contaminate themselves, and it can lead to more risk.”

Henry has written a book called Soap and Water and Common Sense, after working on the SARS pandemic in 2003. She later was involved in ebola outbreaks in Africa that started in 2012.

RELATED: Precautions for those pregnant in a pandemic

RELATED: B.C. Parks suspends camping until end of April

Health care staff use N95 respirators with eye protection, face visors and gowns when treating people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. N95 respirators are a more tight-fitting mask than the disposable ones commonly seen on streets.

“Where it is incredibly important is in the health care system,” Henry said. “And we need to make sure we have masks and respirators for our health care providers to make sure that they stay safe. And if I am sick, then a mask can help. It can help keep my droplets in so that I’m not infecting others.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix says B.C. has sufficient supplies of protective gear and more on order for people working in health facilities as demand for medical care climbs.

Premier John Horgan warned that the province will “crack down pretty hard” on those trying to buy up and resell disinfectants, masks or other protective gear. B.C.’s emergency authority will be used as necessary to protect public health, he said on the broadcast.

“There’s no space for profiteering in a time of crisis,” Horgan said.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

First Energy Metals set to start gold exploration work in the West Kootenay

The work will be conducted at two of its sites near Nakusp and Nelson

Nelson skateboarders charged with assaulting Trail police officer

Incident happened at the skate park in Trail

RDCK closes all indoor recreational facilities until at least August 18

The district said closures are necessary to meet financial plan and to deliver safe programming

Flooding: Why the RDCK ordered hundreds of properties evacuated

All evacuation orders have now been rescinded

PHOTOS: Nelson joins protests against racism, police brutality

The protest was similar to those being held throughout Canada and the United States

B.C. records four new COVID-19 cases, Abbotsford hospital outbreak cleared

Four senior home outbreaks also declared over, eight still active

Help the Nelson Star continue its mission to provide trusted local news

Black Press is now accepting donations to keep its papers operating

RCMP, coroner investigate murder-suicide on Salt Spring Island

Two dead, police say there is no risk to the public

About 30% of B.C. students return to schools as in-class teaching restarts amid pandemic

Education minister noted that in-class instruction remains optional

Trudeau avoids questions about anti-racism protesters dispersed for Trump photo-op

Prime minister says racism is an issue Canadians must tackle at home, too

B.C.’s Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics goes virtual

The annual event partnering RCMP with Special Olympians is dramatically altered by COVID-19

Bateman program encourages people to sketch outside, connect with nature

#MyNatureSketch initiative encourages Canadians to become ‘bright-eyed three year olds’

Be cautious expanding COVID-19 bubble, Dr. Bonnie Henry tells B.C.

Senior homes stay off-limits as schools, businesses reopen

Most Read