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To wear, or not to wear a homemade mask? That is the question.


7 minute read

To do or not to do? That is the question. With my apologies for butchering William Shakespeare’s 1603, Hamlet script from Act 3, Scene 1.

Should I? Should we, wear a homemade mouth and nose masks every time we leave our residence? With so many mixed messages, what to do? It is a simple fact and without question; frontline medical workers and first responders need the store-bought medical masks right now.

Like most, I have had my days consumed by #Covid19 coverage and updates. A Google search of “coronavirus” gave me 6,220,000,000 results back in just 0.58 seconds. A life-time of reading and then some.

One world leader says this, other world leaders says something else. The World Health Organization (WHO) says this, the United Nations (UN) say that. Medical professionals can have conflicting messages from city to city and province to province. Add the stress of watching a virus spread, cratering economies around the world; our heads are spinning with over information.

Canada’s official position backed by Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, has been strongly against everyone in the country wearing homemade face masks. In a recent press conference Tam said, “What we worry about is actually the potential negative aspects of wearing a mask, where people are not protecting their eyes or other aspects of where the virus could enter your body, and that gives you a false sense of confidence,”  and added, “also, it increases the touching of your face. If you think about it, if you’ve got a mask around your face sometimes you can’t help it.”

Canada’s stance aside, in recent days, Western and European countries are starting to join Asian countries’ practises, where the rules for the population are either voluntarily or it’s mandated to wear a face mask in a public setting; some countries with strict penalties. This of course a major U-turn for many countries, considering how there are “Anti-mask laws” in place.

The US Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adam in a scene from his “how-to” video on how to make a face mask, with-out sewing.

On April 3rd, US President Donald Trump, announced his administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommending on a voluntary basis, that Americans wear “non-medical cloth” face coverings. Trump also added that right now he would not partake in the mask wear practise, saying, “Maybe I’ll change my mind.” The Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adam posted a “how-to” video on how to make a face mask, with-our sewing.

In the Czech Republic the prime minister, Andrej Babiš has taken a much stronger stance, mandating the covering the nose and mouth at all times outside the home. Aside from closing the boarders and all non-essential businesses, restricting public gatherings, the leader sees the new move as, “vital in controlling the spread of Covid- 19”. The Czech leader has also urged all other governments to follow their lead.

The Czech government became the second country behind Slovakia, in Europe to impose mandatory mask-wearing. No, the Czech government is NOT supplying its 10-million citizens with masks, pharmacies are not selling surgical and medical grade masks to the public, they are for front-line workers.

Without missing a beat and backed by a #Masks4All movement many “how-to” online videos popped-up including one featuring the Minister of Health of, Adam Vojtěch.

Tens of thousands of Czech’s along with businesses nation-wide immediately began churning out homemade masks out of a variety of fabrics. It has been reported that within a short number of days, there was enough for everyone going outside.

Well it turns out, not “everyone” that went outside was wearing a mask. On April 3rd, Czech police were called to a favourite area for nudists. No shirt, no shoes, no pants, no issues, but no face mask, that is a problem! It is not known if any of the sun absorbing naturalists were issued a $800US fine for public disobedience that came along with the Czech government’s new rules.

Czech police were called to a favourite area for nudists. No mask? That is a problem. Photo/Police Czech Republic

As the debate to wear or not circle’s the globe, there is no ignoring that mask wearing countries like, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and Singapore have not had the horrifying mass outbreaks like those in Italy, Spain, New York now quickly spreading across the US.

Medical staff work wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE), will there be enough to last through this COVID-19 pandemic? THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

There is a worried thought the, “Lull it could give” the population but people know there are still all the other social distancing and sanitation rules. The biggest worry by far is for the front-line medicals workers plus all the first responders. There is a mask shortage now, forcing health workers to disregard basic coronavirus infection control by washing disposable masks and reusing other items already. A mandatory face mask rule could lead to the risking of tens of thousands of people.

No matter voluntary or mandatory, we all must know that medical and 1st responders come first; the general public should wear cloth masks.

Click of photo, learn how to make a homemade cloth face mask. NO sewing required!


New app uses AI to help Calgary medical students practise interacting with patients

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A Calgary medical student has developed a new app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before they set up their practices. Eddie Guo, seen in an undated handout photo, is a second-year student at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. He says that one of the challenges in medical school is becoming better at interacting with patients. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-University of Calgary

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

A Calgary medical student has developed an app that allows future doctors to work on their diagnostic and communication skills before they set up their practices.

Eddie Guo, a second-year student at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, said one of the challenges beyond the book learning in medical school is becoming better at interacting with patients.

As a result, he’s turned to the rapidly growing area of artificial intelligence to create a number of virtual patients, with a variety of health conditions, that a student can talk to.

“It’s good to get more than just two or four hours of the practice we get in medical school to really be able understand what it’s like to communicate in a real-life scenario,” said Guo.

“We think it’s a good idea to have more than a few hours of practice before actually going out into the wild and seeing patients for the first time.”

Guo created a program, called OSCE-GPT, where the computer is the patient. Users choose the patient’s gender and can select a scenario or let the computer decide on one for them.

“I’m Ben Johnson and I’ve been having some really bad abdominal pains over the past two days. It’s in the right upper quadrant and it spreads to my back,” said the robotic male voice in the program.

“I’ve also been feeling nauseous and vomiting. I’m here in the emergency department because of the pain.”

The AI patient can answer questions about its condition and, after the conversation, provides feedback to the student along with a list of other questions that could have been asked.

Guo said until he is finally allowed on the medical wards, the only other interactions he gets are with standardized patients, professional actors who present with various conditions.

“As you can imagine, they’re really quite good at their job, but they’re also very expensive,” Guo said.

“We don’t get that much opportunity really to practise speaking with a patient, and so what this app was born out of was a lack of possibility to practise.”

Guo collaborated with medical resident Dr. Mehul Gupta. He said this kind of additional help will make for better doctors.

“One of the things we learn again and again in medical school, and that’s reinforced again in residency, is that the history you take from a patient is almost 99 per cent of the diagnosis that you make and the impression you make on a patient the first time you speak with them is long-lasting,” Gupta said.

“If you have the opportunity to practise to tailor your questions to see how you could have done better, you really do become a better doctor overall.”

Guo said the app is still being upgraded and at this point there is no image of a patient that shows up on the screen. He said he is hoping that things like a chest X-ray, a CT scan or a picture of someone’s skin could be incorporated into the program.

Within the first month of the app’s launch, more than 550 health-care trainees from Canada and across the world including Europe, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States signed on.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 22, 2023.

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Officials say some patients showing ‘severe symptoms’ in Calgary daycare outbreak

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The entrance to the emergency department at Peter Lougheed hospital is pictured in, Calgary on Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2023. An Alberta health official says some of the 22 patients in hospital after an E. coli outbreak at several Calgary daycares have severe symptoms. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

By Bill Graveland in Calgary

An Alberta health official says some of the 22 patients in hospital after an E. coli outbreak at several Calgary daycares have severe symptoms.

Alberta Health Services says there are now 96 laboratory-confirmed cases due to the outbreak, which is up from 56 on Tuesday.

Dr. Francesco Rizzuti, medical officer of health for the Calgary Zone, said Wednesday that the number in hospital has risen from 15. He said 16 are at Alberta Children’s Hospital and six are at Peter Lougheed Centre.

“The majority of individuals that get sick from E. coli generally improve on their own and without specific treatment, typically within 10 days,” Rizzuti said.

“However, a small portion may develop more severe complications. Currently, we have a handful of children who are hospitalized with these more serious illnesses related to this outbreak.”

Rizzuti said that due to privacy concerns, he couldn’t say how many are suffering from severe symptoms. He also would not would confirm any of them have hemolytic uremic syndrome, also known has HUS, which affects the kidneys and causes blood clots.

“Hemolytic uremic syndrome can be a severe consequence. At this time, because we do have small numbers and I want to respect the privacy of the parents, I’m unable to speak to the exact numbers,” he said.

“But it is a small proportion of our laboratory-confirmed cases who do have severe illness and are in hospital at the moment.”

Rizzuti said it was his decision to close six Calgary Fueling Brains daycares and five others out of an abundance of caution after he received calls from city emergency wards.

He said it could take a while before the investigation into the source of the E. coli is found. Public health officers have already taken samples from the central kitchen shared by the daycares.

“They collected a number of food samples, both leftover foods as well as frozen foods, from the site and these are being tested in our laboratory. These do take some time,” Rizzuti said.

“Typically in outbreaks like this, we may not find a food source.”

Faisal Alimohd, co-founder and chairman of Fueling Brains, said he’s saddened that children are sick and immediately began working with AHS to investigate the outbreak.

“Though not all Fueling Brains child-care campuses are currently classified as being on outbreak status by AHS, we have proactively closed all potentially impacted locations as a precaution,” Alimohd said in a statement.

“The exact source of the outbreak has not been identified, but we will be reviewing our policies, procedures and sourcing related to food services for our facilities.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 6, 2023.

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