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No plans to mandate masks, Roussin says on sixth consecutive day without new case

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS</p><p>Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.</p>


Dr. Brent Roussin, chief provincial public health officer.

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The province's chief public health officer admits his views on mask wearing have evolved since the early days of the pandemic, but he says Manitoba is far from mandating the use of face coverings.

Dr. Brent Roussin once questioned the benefits of wearing masks, stressing hand-washing, physical distancing and staying home when sick as keys to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

On Monday, at his first news conference in more than a week, Roussin said wearing a mask "has its place."

"Certainly, in situations where people can't maintain physical distancing, then certainly using a face mask is reasonable," he said, adding that it must be worn properly to be useful.

Some municipalities in Ontario have mandated face-mask use in public, and others are considering it.

More than 200 scientists recently urged the World Health Organization to do more to address airborne spread of the coronavirus.

Roussin said that for now, Manitoba will continue to focus on what's worked well here, so far.

"I'm confident that the major spread of this virus is through droplet spread through people who are displaying symptoms," he said.

Those jurisdictions contemplating mandatory use of masks are "dealing with relatively higher rates of circulation of this virus, so they're doing whatever they can to limit the spread," he said.

Manitoba has not reported a new COVID-19 case since June 30. The case count remained at 325 Monday. Fourteen of the cases are active. There are no individuals in hospital with the virus.

In answer to a reporter's question, Roussin said he does not wear a mask when he ventures in public.

"I'm certainly fortunate. I don't find myself in situations where I can't maintain physical distancing. For brief exchanges where you can maintain physical distancing, wearing a mask is less important. It's more so in those places where you can't maintain that physical distancing. Then you can choose to do that in addition to all the other protective measures," he said.

Meanwhile, he again expressed concern Monday about long-haul truckers being unfairly stigmatized by reports that some have been infected by COVID-19.

In the past, the Manitoba Trucking Association has told of truckers being denied table service in restaurants.

Roussin said he's received emails from truckers saying they've even been denied certain health services.

The chief public health officer provided few details. He said, however, he was unaware of anyone in the public health system denying service to truckers.

"It would be more a private-type of provider — allied health is what I've been informed of," Roussin said, without being more specific.

Terry Shaw, executive director of the trucking association, said he has not heard of any of his members' drivers being denied health services of any kind.

The association is asking Manitoba Health for more information about Roussin's assertion.

Shaw said he received numerous media calls for comment Monday about the doctor's remarks.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature Reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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Updated on Monday, July 6, 2020 at 6:04 PM CDT: Fixes minor typo.

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