LONDON, ONT. -- The decision by civic leaders to wear surgical masks inside city council chambers is raising questions about non-medical masks in other indoor spaces.

Politicians, civic staff, and media attending this week’s city council meeting were required to switch from their non-medical fabric masks to disposable surgical masks.

“It was a direction from senior management,” explains Holder. “Particularly because in some circumstances it’s challenging to remain two metres apart.”

In a written statement, civic administration says the new rule is in keeping with provincial and health unit guidance documents.

‘In instances when it isn’t possible to maintain physical distancing, employees are required to wear surgical masks.’ the statement reads.

Surgical masks must meet highly-regulated standards compared to the similar looking blue disposable masks.

Holder says there were concerns within city hall that some fabric masks are insufficient.

“As we know some of the masks in the marketplace some are thin and narrow, barely cover a nose and barely cover a chin,” he said after the council meeting.

Despite the arrival of more transmissible strains of COVID-19 in Ontario, the Middlesex-London Health Unit advises that mask recommendations haven’t changed for the public.

“Those cloth masks that we all wear when we are out continue to be the requirement for any indoor environment,” says Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Alex Summers. “Medical grade masks are required in clinical environments like hospitals.”

Dr. Summers points out the objective is ‘source control’, reducing the likelihood the mask wearer spreads the virus to others.

“When it comes to source control, non-medical masks and medical masks seem to go head to head and do just about the same. The key thing is non-medical masks have to fit well,” he adds.

Holder says the switch to surgical masks ensure a proper fit.

“What we’re confident in, at least internally, is that this type of mask works.”

London city hall remains closed to visitors during the provincial state of emergency and stay at home order.