COVID mask fitting

Get your mask tested for COVID season

It’s the only way to know — for sure — if you’re protected

Knowing your mask is worth wearing means having it tested. 

Gaye Moffett has been conducting these tests for more than 20 years and has fit-tested more than 50,000 people. She learned how in 2003 when the original coronovirus landed in Canada: SARS.

It’s one reason her staff were outfitted with masks that met that standard throughout the pandemic, but Moffett says this test isn’t just for healthcare providers.

GEM will test anyone who wants to ensure their mask has the quality and fit they need to protect themselves and their loved ones.

Which mask do I need?

The key to ensuring your mask works is material and fit.

Cloth masks — as well as the blue surgical masks — won’t cut it.

What you need is an N95 mask that has been fitted to your face. Moffett recommends 3M manufactured N95 masks, the company that invented the test during SARS.

She cautions against using similar products, but says some can still work with an adjustment.

“While the KN95 masks can be effective, we found that the straps were failing,” said Moffett. “But if it’s what you have on hand, you can wear an ear protector to extend the life of the straps and make it more comfortable.”

How do I know if my mask works?

There are two aspects to a functioning mask: materials and fit.

The test 3M invented for their own products involves using a spray that doesn’t smell very good. 

“It’s Bitrex, the same non-toxic but bitter-tasting substance people use to stop biting their fingernails,” said Moffett.

Anyone wearing a cloth or blue surgical mask can detect the bitter scent because those masks don’t provide an adequate seal. 

And if someone wearing an N95 mask can smell it, there’s a problem with fit.

Who can get their mask tested?

During the pandemic, GEM tested masks largely for healthcare and construction workers.

Today, people who need the test may be living or working with someone who’s vulnerable to COVID, or vulnerable themselves.

That’s why any member of the public can get their mask tested for a fee. Getting tested costs $64.50 if you bring your own mask, and $70 when you buy a mask from GEM.

“The entire process takes 20 minutes from start to finish,” said Moffett. 

The only masks GEM tests are: 

  • 3M™ full and half 6100 mask series
  • P100 North full and half mask Series
  • Scott AV 3000 respirator

Contact GEM to set up an appointment with their mask-fitting clinic on Tuesdays and Fridays.

home care professional

Four safety and security questions to ask before welcoming a home care professional into your home

We’re continuing our “buyer beware” series to talk about another critical topic: safety and security. 

Any credible home care provider conducts a thorough background check on every service provider they hire, but there are other details to consider. The four questions below will cover those bases.

As always, look for concrete answers in addition to noting the tone and tenor of their response, because anyone who sounds defensive or offended by questions about safety and security is also waving that big red “buyer beware” flag. 

1.Are your home care workers contractors or employees?

This is one of the most important questions to ask, because it potentially affects clients in two ways.

The first is financial. Employers are required by law to deduct taxes, EI and CPP from their staff’s salary. But contractors are responsible for handling these details themselves. 

If the CRA audits a contract worker and finds they haven’t declared all their income, they could target the client to recoup any taxes owing.

The second is liability. Contract workers should carry their own malpractice and workplace insurance, but many don’t due to the cost. Employers on the other hand are mandated to carry this insurance.

If you’re using an online matching service to find home care workers at a lower cost, be sure to ask if their staff are contractors or employees. 

2.If the caregiver I’m assigned isn’t a good fit or I’m mistreated, how will you find a better match?

What online matching services may fail to mention is that when you hire one of their home care workers, you have technically become an employer. 

That means any issues that may arise, whether it’s just a bad fit personally, discovering their skills aren’t up to snuff, or if you’re outright abused, is a problem you’ll have to solve on your own. 

So the answer to this question reveals whether they hold themselves accountable for the staff on their roster.  If you find yourself left in the lurch you’ll have to do all the work to handle the problem as well as starting at square one to find someone new.

Licensed home care agencies that employ full-time staff are less likely to hire problem staff in the first place because they’re accountable if a problem arises and they have a management team in place to respond.

3.Does your company conduct criminal record and vulnerable sector background checks for all the staff on your roster? 

The biggest safety risk is of course knowing your worker is who they say they are and hasn’t committed a crime.

There are many kinds of background checks that find this information. Ask your provider if they conduct vulnerable sector background checks on all their staff. 

4.Are your caregivers vaccinated?

While the worst of the pandemic is over, contracting COVID or some other virus will always be a concern for those with a vulnerable health status. 

If you believe you’ll be at risk, you have every right to ask this question to ensure your safety. GEM requires three COVID vaccinations for all their staff.

In addition to these questions, starting with a care plan assessment conducted by a nurse or care coordinator is a preventative measure. 

There’s nothing less safe than missing a service that could prevent a fall, fire, or some other accident that makes it impossible to stay where you’re most comfortable: at home.