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Face Coverings/Masks

Face coverings are now mandatory
  • New COVID-19 variants are more transmissible and make mask wearing even more important as a prevention measure to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Wearing a mask that fits well and provides a good seal around your nose, cheeks and chin is important whenever you are in a public indoor space or in close proximity to anyone you don’t live with.
  • See O. Reg. 263/20: RULES FOR AREAS IN STEP 2 for detailed information on mandatory face covering/masks in Ontario. The following information aims to simplify the legislative document for guidance and does not take precedence over the actual legislation.
  • Every person indoors at a business or organization must wear a face covering/mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin.
  • Every person inside a vehicle that is part of a business or organization must wear a face covering/mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin.
  • A person does not need to wear a face covering/mask in an indoor area of a business or organization if the person:
    • Is a child younger than 2 years of age.
    • Is performing or rehearsing in a film or television production or in a concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance.
    • Has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering.
    • Is unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person.
    • Needs to temporarily remove their mask or face covering while in the indoor area:
      • To receive services that require the removal of their mask or face covering.
      • To engage in an athletic or fitness activity.
      • To consume food or drink.
      • As may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.
    • Is being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005.
    • Is being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code.
    • Performs work for the business or organization, is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person while in the indoor area.
    • For further details on the masking requirements see the Provincial regulations.
  • This requirement does not apply with respect to premises that are used as a dwelling if the person responsible for the business or organization ensures that persons in the premises who are not entitled to an exception set out above wear a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose and chin in any common areas of the premises in which persons are unable to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from other persons.
  • People entitled to an exception do not need to show proof of the exception.

When buying or making a cloth face covering, here are some things to consider:

  • Multiple layers: Minimum of 2 layers of material; 3 or more will provide better protection. Some masks have a pocket built in to accommodate a filter layer. The middle, filter layer can be a disposable filter purchased for this or even a folded paper towel that would then be removed before washing. Other styles have a fabric middle filter layer (often made from a polypropylene material) sewn right into them.
  • Type of material: Tightly woven fabric will provide the best protection. Try blowing out a candle through the fabric or holding it up to the light to check how tightly it is woven. Avoid non-breathable materials like plastic or vinyl when making or choosing face coverings. Having a different fabric on each side makes it easy to quickly see what side faces out. In a two layer mask, the inner layer should be a moisture absorbent fabric, like tightly woven cotton, and the outer layer is a water repellant fabric, like linen or polyester. In a 3-layer mask, the middle material can be made of a hydro-phobic material like polypropylene to further improve filtration. Do not use masks that use Graphene as they may pose health risks.
  • Fit: The mask should fit snugly over your nose, and chin and not gape at the sides. A wire inside the top can help to provide a snug fit over the nose and reduce fogging of eye-glasses. Adjusting the ear loops or ties can help with a snug fit on the sides of the face.
  • Durability: Cloth face coverings should be washed after each use so it should hold up to repeated washings in hot water.

Remember – face coverings are not a replacement for physical distancing, hand hygiene or staying home when sick. All prevention measures should be used together for best protection.

Note: Some commercially available masks have exhalation valves that make the mask more breathable for the person wearing it, but these valves also allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask. Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they don’t protect others from COVID-19 and don’t limit the spread of the virus.

Disposable Non-medical Face Masks

Disposable non-medical face masks may be worn instead of a cloth face covering. These masks are single use masks and should be put in the garbage after use.

Wearing a Mask

  • How to make your mask fit properly:
    • The way your mask fits can help prevent you and others from being exposed to COVID-19.
    • Choose a mask made of multiple layers, including at least 2 layers of tightly woven fabric and a third middle layer of filter-type fabric.
    • Before touching your mask, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
    • Make sure your mask completely covers your nose, mouth and chin.
    • Check for gaps between your face and your mask.
      • Check the top, sides and bottom of your mask.
      • Check the edges of your mask for air leaks and adjust if necessary.
    • Improve mask fit so it’s snug and has no gaps.
      • Adjust the ties or ear loops.
      • Adjust the wire nosepiece if your mask has one.
    • Other ways to improve mask fit are as follows.
      • Consider keeping facial hair shaved or short. This allows the mask to fit more closely to your face.
      • Tie knots in the ear loops and tuck in the sides of the mask so that it lies flat.
      • Use a mask fitter or brace to help provide a snug fit.
      • Layer a well-fitting non-medical cloth mask over a disposable mask to help push the edges of the disposable mask closer to your face. Make sure that you can still breathe easily when wearing 2 masks.
    • Avoid touching your face or mask/face covering while wearing it.
    • Use your own mask/face covering. Don’t share it with others.
    • Clean surfaces that a dirty mask/face covering touches.

Cleaning a Cloth Mask/Face Covering

  • Wash your re-usable mask/face covering when it is slightly wet or dirty:
  • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine.
  • Wash with other items using a hot cycle with laundry detergent and dry thoroughly. Using Shared Laundry Facilities Fact Sheet.
  • Wash your hands afterwards.

Situations for Medical Mask Use

  • Medical masks are recommended for:
    • Anyone who has tested positive for or has symptoms of COVID-19.
    • People caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
    • People who live in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
    • People who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.
    • People who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation.
  • Individuals in the above situations could also consider using a respirator.
  • See the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Mask Use webpages for more information.
  • Children under the age of two
  • Individuals with medical conditions that make them unable to safely wear a mask including breathing difficulties* or cognitive difficulties.
  • Anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

*Note: We strongly recommend that anyone who is unable to wear a mask due to breathing difficulties consult with their health care provider as they may be more at risk for severe outcomes from a COVID-19 infection.

Frequently Asked Questions

“Mask” means: a cloth (non-medical) mask, medical mask or other face coverings, for filtering respiratory droplets that securely covers the nose, mouth, and chin and is in contact with the surrounding face without gapping. The face covering should be a minimum of 2 layers (3 is best) of tightly woven fabric that fits snugly. Winter outerwear like scarves are not sufficient to stop respiratory particles. Bandanas may be acceptable if they are folded to be multi-layer and fitted snugly over the nose and chin.

Every person indoors at a business or organization must wear a face covering/mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin. Every person inside a vehicle that is part of a business or organization must wear a face covering/mask that covers their mouth, nose and chin. See the Mandatory Face Coverings/Masks in Ontario menu above for more detail.

There are many individuals and businesses that are selling masks/face coverings in Leeds, Grenville and Lanark. Visit a local store or check online for options

If purchasing an N95 respirator, make sure that you are not purchasing a counterfeit product. See this Government of Canada public advisory on counterfeit respirators.

Check out the following places to see about free or low cost masks.

Employers may provide masks for staff to wear in the workplace.

Every owner/operator of a business/organization will have a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the business/organization unless they are wearing a mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin. If a person refuses to wear a mask/face covering, without a medical exemption, they should be asked to leave the premises.

People in a business/organization who remove their mask for extended periods of time, or wear it improperly, should receive a verbal reminder of the requirement to wear a mask/face covering and if they do not comply they should be asked to leave.

As part of your workplace safety plan every owner/operator of a business/organization can develop a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the business/organization unless they are wearing a mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin. If a person refuses to wear a mask/face covering, without a medical exemption, they should be asked to leave the premises.

Implementation of the mandatory mask requirement will generally be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’. If aggressive or violent behaviour ensues, local police can be contacted.

See the Mandatory Face Coverings/Masks in Ontario menu above for details on exemptions.

There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing that may require an employee to remove their mask/face covering to speak to the customer. We remind anyone removing their mask/face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) away from others. Keep the time with mask removed to a minimum and put it back on as quickly as possible.

No person shall be required to provide proof of any of the exemptions.

*Note: exemption cards have been circulating on social media. These are not valid as proof is NOT required.

There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing that may require an employee to remove their face covering to speak to the customer. We remind anyone removing their face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) away from others. Keep the time with mask removed to a minimum and put it back on as quickly as possible. When speaking to someone who is hard of hearing – try your best to articulate well so they can read your lips instead of raising your voice which can spread more droplets. 

Additionally, for those with hearing impairments, our friends at Ottawa Public Health have shared these videos on COVID-19 resources using ASL.

A face shield is used for eye protection and is not a substitute for wearing a face mask as it does not filter respiratory droplets. A face shield is used to provide eye protection for the wearer against droplets expelled from another person, however these droplets may still be inhaled around the shield. Respiratory droplets expelled by the wearer may escape around the sides of the face shield, providing much less protection to others when compared to a mask. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend to wear it in addition to a properly fitted mask/face covering. While a face shield is not a substitute for a mask, it might be worn by someone who is unable to wear a mask due to breathing or cognitive difficulties that make them unable to wear a mask, as it would be better than wearing nothing. It would be better to try to find a mask that is tolerated and comfortable than to wear a face shield.

Individuals with medical conditions rendering them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties, may be exempt from wearing a mask. Masks help to decrease the risk of contracting COVID-19. A pre-existing breathing issue may make someone more susceptible to severe consequences if they contract COVID-19. In this case a medical mask may be a better option due to the need to protect yourself.

See the following resources for more information:

Yes. Every person indoors at a business or organization must wear a mask/face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin (some exceptions apply).

Members of the public are permitted to temporarily remove their mask/face covering while in an indoor area:

  • To receive services that require the removal of their mask or face covering.
  • To engage in an athletic or fitness activity.
  • To consume food or drink.
  • As may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.

Note: When not actively engaged in these activities masks should be on (e.g., when ordering food, when finished eating, before or after working out).

If dining indoors, you are required to wear a face covering/mask when entering, leaving, and whenever you get up from the table (to go to the washroom). However, it is courteous to those around you (especially staff) if you are able to also keep it on whenever you are not eating or drinking.

If dining outdoors on a patio, you still must wear a face covering if you enter the establishment (in order to access the patio, to use the washrooms, or to pay). It is recommended to wear a face covering whenever physical distancing is a challenge.

For fitness facilities, you must wear a face covering when you are not exercising (when entering, using the washrooms or changing facilities, or stopping to chat). You may remove your face covering when participating in fitness activities as facilities should have measures in place to separate participants by barrier or physical space. 

Cloth masks can be re-used throughout the day if not soiled and undamaged. With clean hands, remove the mask from your face and fold it in half so that the outer surface is inwards (so that the contaminated outer surface is not contacting anything during storage) and place it in a clean, sealable bag or container until ready to use it again the same day. Wash or sanitize your hands again when done. Disposable masks should not be washed, reused or recycled.

Cloth masks become contaminated, especially when touched by your hands. When taking off a cloth mask, follow these steps:

  • After washing your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, remove your mask by pulling the ties or ear loops away from your ears.
  • If your mask has a removable, non-reusable filter, make sure to remove and throw out the filter before machine or hand- washing your mask.
  • For machine washing, put the mask directly into the washing machine or in a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine. Throw out the bag after you have used it to store your mask. If the bag is washable you can wash it with your mask. Wash your hands again with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling your mask.
  • Wash the masks with other laundry using a hot water cycle. 
  • For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as you can stand, then dry thoroughly.
  • When discarding damaged or worn out masks, drop them in a lined garbage bin.
  • Do not leave any discarded masks in places where others can come in contact with them such as shopping carts, public seats, bus stops or on the ground.

Wash your cloth face covering daily if used, and additionally whenever slightly wet or dirty.

For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as you can stand, then dry thoroughly.

Disposable non-medical masks are available for purchase in many places. While these masks may look like medical masks, they will not be the same quality and should be labeled as ‘non-medical’ on the box. Disposable masks should not be washed, reused or recycled. Dispose of them safely in a lined garbage bin after use. *Snip the ear loops so animals don’t get caught in them.

A respirator (like an N95 type mask) can provide added protection by filtering droplets and aerosols from both leaving and entering your respiratory system.

Below are some situations when individuals could consider using an N95 respirator for added protection.

  • Anyone who has tested positive for or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who live in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.
  • People who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living or working situation.

Some considerations for using a respirator (N95):

Face Coverings and Masks for Businesses

Every owner/operator of a business/organization must have a policy to ensure that no member of the public is permitted to enter or remain in the business/organization unless they are wearing a mask in a manner that covers their nose, mouth and chin. If a person refuses to wear a mask/face covering, without a medical exemption, they should be asked to leave the premises.

In the event that a person enters your business premises without a face covering/mask, you can kindly remind the person that they must wear a face covering/mask in your business premises, and then there are 3 scenarios that could occur:

  1. The person puts on a face covering/mask and can enter your business premises.
  2. The person indicates they qualify for a medical exemption as per the Provincial Regulations. You do not need to ask follow up questions and the person is not required to show proof of the medical exemption. Depending on your business policy – you can offer this person alternate ways to serve them like curbside pick-up or delivery, or allow them to enter.
  3. The person does not indicate they qualify for an exemption, and refuses to put on a face covering/mask. You should refuse entry and can offer alternate ways to serve them if possible. Some businesses provide masks for sale for this type of situation.
    We are all in the fight against COVID-19 together. It is so important that we all protect each other’s health and do everything we can to ensure our local businesses can continue to operate safely for everyone. Local law enforcement can be contacted if there is aggressive behaviour.

To limit the spread of COVID-19, wearing a face covering/mask in the indoor areas of businesses/organizations is an important tool, in addition to getting vaccinated, staying home when sick maintaining at least 2 metres/6 feet physical distancing, washing your hands thoroughly and frequently, and covering your coughs and sneezes.

Regardless of whether someone is wearing a face covering/mask or not, please treat everyone with respect and courtesy.

The Provincial Regulation is requiring Operators to do the following:

  • Post signage in your premises to advise the public of face covering/mask requirements.
  • Have alcohol-based hand sanitizer available for use at all entrances and exits.
  • Remind customers of the mandatory face covering/mask requirement. As per the Instruction, implementation of the policy should be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and should be primarily used as a means to educate people on face covering/mask use in Enclosed Public Spaces.
  • Find more information here on using masks in the workplace | ontario.ca

A business Operator shall not refuse any person entry into their business premises if the person claims they qualify for an exemption, as per the Provincial regulations, including those who are accommodated under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or who have protections under the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended.

No person shall be required to provide proof of any of the exemptions.

As per the Trespass to Property Act, an Operator can refuse entry and/or service. If they do so in violation of other legislation, including but not limited to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.19, as amended, there may be consequences (e.g., a violation of human rights claim).

Businesses may provide alternate ways of receiving services that may be safer when masks cannot be worn for the protection of staff and customers as per their COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan.

*Note: Businesses are complying with this instruction to protect the health of their customers, staff and our community. Finding ways to work together so we can all get through this difficult time is important. If you feel you are being denied service, reach out to the business to see if there are alternative ways to interact (e.g., curbside pick-up).