Only college-supplied masks allowed on campus

By Daniel Adam

Red River College Polytechnic rang in the new year with an update to its COVID-19 mask policy. Under the new requirements, only college-supplied masks are permitted on campus.

Cloth masks, including those with multiple layers, are among those now prohibited. Instead, the college recommends KN95 or N95 masks.

The changes come on the heels of new provincial messaging, which indicates KN95s are more effective at preventing the virus’ spread.

There is no standard definition for cloth masks, so medical-grade masks are most effective, Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist, said.

Lagacé-Wiens agreed cloth masks aren’t practical but cautioned the college against including N95s on its recommended list.

KN95 and N95 masks are similar, although N95s have a higher lab standard of filtration, he said.

“When you use a medical-grade mask, you know that it’s met certain standards of fit and filtration,” Lagacé-Wiens explained. “An N95 meets all the standards of a KN95 and then some.”

The problem with recommending N95s is that they are highly sought after in the healthcare field, he said.

“If you tell everybody to start wearing an N95 mask, and wearing a new one every day, you’re going to start draining one of our most critical resources in the healthcare system,” he said.

Most KN95s are produced in Asia and are easier to obtain, he added.

On Jan. 4, a supply of KN95s and N95s was available at campus entrances. Moving forward, departments are responsible for ordering and supplying recommended masks to students and faculty, RRC Polytech stated in a December news release.

As it has throughout the pandemic, the college will supply procedure masks at campus entries, the release continued.

A security guard gives a patron a procedure mask at RRC Polytech’s Exchange District Campus on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022./DANIEL ADAM

The Projector spoke with a security representative at the William Avenue entrance who said he distributes 10-20 masks every morning. Once he runs out, he gets more.

There are plenty of procedure masks available to service the roughly 60 to 70 people he sees each day, he said.

For the winter 2022 term, all existing health measures remain in place. Anyone on campus must show proof of double vaccination, and students are encouraged to get their booster shots as soon as they are eligible — though it is not currently mandatory.

Lagacé-Wiens believes most organizations with an immunization requirement will extend it to include three doses.

“I think we’re just going to be changing the definition of ‘fully immunized,’” he said.

RRC Polytech has reported 14 COVID-19 cases this term — 11 at NDC and three at EDC.