OTTAWA — Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knows moist is a gross word.
During his daily press conference outside his Ottawa home at Rideau Cottage Tuesday, after reiterating that he’s no medical expert, Trudeau advised Canadians to respect physical-distancing rules and to avoid “speaking moistly” with others.
Trudeau uttered the horrendous phrase after being asked by a reporter for clarity on advice health officials gave the previous day. Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam recommended Canadians wear non-medical or cloth masks in public places where physical distancing may be difficult.
“What I have heard from medical experts is that the most important thing is for people to stay home,” the prime minister said, adding that it’s OK if people want to wear a non-medical or cloth mask in public.
“It protects others more than it protects you because it prevents you from breathing or speaking moistly on them,” Trudeau said before realizing his cringeworthy choice of words.
“Ugh, what a terrible image,” he added.
It was a terrible image that seemingly struck a nerve with viewers tuned into the prime minister’s daily address.
It was a gross moment of levity over one of the English language’s least favourite words.
The advice for Canadians to consider wearing non-medical masks in public comes days after the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the public use cloth face coverings to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been increasing attention on mask-wearing over the possibility of pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people spreading the virus.
At a later press conference in Ottawa, Tam said evidence “is not quite there” confirming the efficacy of masks as a tool to protect oneself from the virus. She called their use an “added layer of prevention” in protecting others from potential exposure.
“I still have to do the hand washing and still have to do the physical distancing as much as possible,” she explained.
Health Minister Patty Hajdu said wearing a mask can be an “uncomfortable” experience for those who haven’t done it.
“I haven’t worn one yet,” she said. “So I would probably feel like I would want to fiddle with that mask, given the newness.”
COVID-19 is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a novel coronavirus. In lieu of a current vaccine for the disease, public health officials around the world have urged people to stay at home whenever possible.
People who go outside for essential trips, such as going to the grocery store or for health-related appointments, are urged to maintain a distance of two metres with others.
There are 17,063 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday morning, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. More than 346,000 have been tested for the disease, according to Dr. Tam, adding that five per cent of those tests have turned out positive.
At least 345 people have died from the disease in Canada.
The topic of masks, and the finite supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health-care workers, has been top of mind recently as some regions face shortages.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned the province’s health workers will run out of PPE in a week after the release of a shipment of 500,000 masks.
The Canadian supply of N95 respirators, medical-grade masks, was threatened last week after the Trump administration pressured Minnesota-based company 3M to halt exports to Canada and Latin America.
3M has since signed a deal with the White House to continue shipments to Canada.
With files from Ryan Maloney
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