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Canada's top doctor recommends 'face masks' during sex

Keep the face mask on, even in the bedroom.
Consider using a mask that covers the nose and mouth in the bedroom. Photo: Face masks and lingerie / Getty Images

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, has some rather unusual advice for anyone looking to be intimate with a new person during the pandemic.

Keep the face mask on, even in the bedroom.

While that might sound like a strange recommendation, Canada's top doctor notes that a recent uptick in cases means it's now more important than ever to take precautions against COVID-19. 

"There have been 129,425 cases of COVID-19 in Canada, including 9,132 deaths. 88.5% of people have now recovered. Labs across Canada tested an average of 46,000 people daily over the past week with 0.9% testing positive," said Tam in a statement. 

"An average of over 490 new cases have been reported daily during the most recent seven days."

Although sexual health is an important part of our overall health, Tam underscored that sex can be complicated in the time of COVID-19 - especially for those without an intimate partner in their household or whose sexual partner is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19. And, like other activities that involve physical closeness, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk of getting infected and spreading the virus.

Back in July, the BC Centre for Disease Control released a number of safe sex tips for the COVID-19 pandemic, and it included some rather surprising suggestions. 

For one, the Centre noted that positions best suited for sex during the pandemic are those with "minimal face-to-face contact." They also note that it is best to use barriers when possible. 

And what exactly constitutes a barrier?

Walls, such as glory holes, that allow for sexual contact but prevent close face-to-face contact.

That said, both Tam and the BCCDC say the safest sexual activity is performed solo. 

Of course, if you choose to engage in an in-person sexual encounter with someone outside of your household or close contacts bubble, Tam noted that there are some steps you can take to reduce your risk.

The most important step is to establish a trusting relationship with your sexual partner. When engaging in sexual activity you can reduce your risk by:

  • Monitoring yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 and not having sex if you or your partner is experiencing symptoms;
  • Limiting your use of alcohol and other substances so you and your partner(s) are able to make safe decisions;
  • Skipping kissing and avoiding face-to-face contact or closeness;
    • consider using a mask that covers the nose and mouth;
  • Being aware if you or your partner may be at higher risk for more severe outcomes of COVID-19. This includes:
    • people of any age with underlying medical conditions;
    • people with compromised immune systems; and
    • people living with obesity.
  • As usual, engaging in safer sex practices, including using condoms, knowing your own STI status and the status of your partner.

Current evidence indicates there is a very low likelihood of contracting the novel coronavirus through semen or vaginal fluids. However, even if the people involved do not have symptoms, sexual activity with new partners does increase your risk of getting or passing COVID-19 through close contact, like kissing. 

And while glory holes may seem like a reasonable way to prevent transmission of the virus, the suggestion made quite a splash on social media. In fact, the search term "glory holes" was trending on Twitter Canada for days after it was announced, dropping jaws across the country and around the globe. 

In fact, the news reached the Vice President of YouPorn, Charlie Hughes, who has stated that the company will offer a $100,000 grant to support the construction of glory holes B.C.-wide

Similarly, albeit less so, Tam's mask recommendation has raised a few eyebrows across the country. 


All jokes aside, wearing a mask during sex can help to prevent transmission of the virus, and there are a wide variety of face coverings to choose from. The BCCDC also recommends washing your body with soap and water before and after sex, and not sharing toys with partners. 

But when it comes down to it, you are your safest sex partner, and masturbation will not spread COVID-19.

With files from Nicholas Johansen / Castanet.

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