Why Theresa Tam changed her stance on masks - 2020-05-22
Wearing a mask was never a formal recommendation in Canada. But the science is shifting, and Canada's top doctor is also changing her stance. Masking is now a definite tool in the fight against coronavirus, but Canadians are confused by the changes. Generally, widespread public health recommendations are based on rigorously analyzed evidence. But COVID-19 is a new virus and understanding exactly how it spreads and how to contain it is quickly changing. This Wednesday, when Theresa Tam announced the value of wearing a mask to prevent COVID-19, the new guidance caused confusion. For Tam, the evolving science of masks and shift of her recommendations have unfortunately raised questions about her competency, leading to requests for her resignation.
We have to remember that coronavirus has only been circulating for the last six months. Our understanding of it during the early days of the pandemic was rudimentary. Public health recommendations were based off extrapolated data from older, better understood viruses like SARS and influenza. As our understanding of this new virus evolves, recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada and Tam, its most visible face, shift over time to reflect new developments.
Masking has been one of the most contentious conversations throughout this pandemic. For our neighbours south of the border, wearing a mask or the absence of one, is increasingly becoming a political statement. Here at home, many Canadians have expressed confusion and disappointment that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) didn't recommend widespread masking at the onset of the pandemic. But the effectiveness and need for wearing a mask to limit the spread of COVID-19 from asymptomatic people wasn't clear in early March. So what has changed between now and then to make Tam and her team change their minds?