The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has advised, effective immediately, that all essential workers crossing the Canada-U.S. border must wear a non-medical mask or face covering.
Truck drivers, being essential workers, must comply with the new policy to help curb the spread of COVID-19, but will not be turned away from entering into Canada. The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), which has been directed to implement the face-mask policy, will attempt to provide drivers with a mask should they not have one, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) reports.
Non-medical masks are not medical devices, and not regulated like medical masks or respirators. A homemade non-medical mask is made of a cloth, like cotton, and may include pockets to insert other masks or filters and can be worn over N95 respirators.
CBSA recently indicated that any face mask that demonstrates a reasonable “good-faith” effort to adhere to the requirement will be accepted, as they understand there is a limited supply of medical grade masks available. This could include the use of scarfs, bandanas or other materials.
Though non-medical masks may not be effective at blocking all virus particles that could be transmitted by coughing or sneezing, medical masks such as the N95 model need to be kept for healthcare workers and other people providing direct care to Covid-19 patients.
Non-essential travelers who are allowed across the border will be required to wear the face coverings in addition to isolating themselves for 14 days if they have symptoms of Covid-19, or entering a quarantine for 14 days if they don’t show symptoms.
Essential workers like truck drivers who do not show symptoms of Covid-19 are not required to enter a 14-day quarantine when crossing the border. But those who show symptoms will be told to isolate themselves for 14 days.
“Canada’s response to COVID-19 is based on the latest scientific evidence. As we learn more about this illness, we must adapt our public health measures and our border measures appropriately,” Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam said in a related statement.
“These new requirements for travelers are part of our multilayered pan-Canadian response to this epidemic. We will continue to keep Canadians informed about the risks of COVID-19 and the actions we must all take to plank the curve of this epidemic.”
The border officials are not the first to require such masks. New Jersey has since April 10 required workers and customers to wear cloth face coverings when at essential retail businesses, warehouses and construction sites. A related order required the businesses to provide such face coverings for employees at their expense.
Updated at 4 p.m. EDT to add additional guidance from the Canada Border Services Agency.