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Hastings and Prince Edward Public Health
woman in grocery store wearing cloth face covering

Masks and Face Coverings

On Friday, Oct. 2, the Ontario government mandated the use of face coverings in the indoor premises of all businesses/organizations, with limited exemptions, including corrections and developmental services. Please review our Frequently Asked Questions below for more information.

Face Mask Resources

Under what authority are these instructions being issued?

These instructions have been issued by the Province of Ontario under O. Reg. 346/20, s. 2 (1).

What is considered an indoor area of the premises of a business/establishment?

An indoor area of a business or organization refers to all indoor portions of the premises accessible to the members of the public, and those private areas when 2 metre distancing is not possible. Private dwelling spaces that are on the same premises as a business/establishments are exempt from these requirements.

What is considered to be an appropriate face covering?

face covering means a non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth (including hijab and niqab) that covers the mouth, and nose ensuring a barrier that limits the community transmission. Face shields are not equivalent to non-medical masks or face coverings for source protection and are best suited to be used as addition personal protection equipment in addition to a non-medical mask or other face covering but not alone. Health Canada recommends that a mask be made of at least 3 layers, and that 2 layers should be tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen. The third (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric. However, there is no need to thrown out existing 2 layer masks. A disposable filter can be purchased and inserted between the layers, and when you purchase or create a new mask, consider a 3 layer mask.

Why make face coverings mandatory now?

Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important additional preventative measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission. Together with physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, and staying home when ill, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering in an enclosed public space is an additional public health measure that may help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

What happens if I don’t wear a face covering?

Every person responsible for a business/ organization that is open shall ensure that any person in the indoor area of the business/establishment, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business/establishment, wears a face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period when they are in the indoor area.

While individuals who refuse to wear a face covering must indicate why they are exempt from the regulations, they do not need to provide proof of exemption.

Can a business prohibit me from entering if I am not wearing a face covering?

If individuals who are not exempt from current face covering requirements refuse to wear a face covering, the business/establishment can prohibit the individual from entering the establishment in order to protect themselves from enforcement and to protect their staff and patrons.

While businesses/establishments are encouraged to allow access to individuals who are exempt from face covering requirements, they are entitled to refuse access to those who do not wear face coverings so long as they offer alternate methods of service.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

The following people are exempt from the requirements of wearing a face covering while inside a business/establishment:

  • Individuals under 2 years of age
  • Individuals attending a school or private school (with the exception of certain age groups for which face coverings are otherwise mandated)
  • Individuals attending child care programs
  • Individuals receiving residential services and supports as per the definition of “residential services and supports” in subsection 4 (2) of the Services and Supports to Promote the Social Inclusion of Persons with Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008
  • Individuals in correctional institutions, custody, or detention programs for young persons
  • Individuals receiving services that require the removal of their mask or face covering
  • Individuals engaging in an athletic or fitness activity,
  • Individuals consuming food or drink
  • Individuals performing or rehearsing for film, television, concert, or other artistic event
  • Individuals that have medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear a mask or face covering
  • Individuals that are unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person
  • Individuals working behind a plexiglass/glass barrier are no longer exempt from wearing a face covering.

Do I need to provide proof of exemption?

While proof of exemption is not required from anyone (including employees) who can not wear a face covering in the indoor premises of a business/establishment, the individual should indicate why they are exempt from face covering requirements.

Do I need to wear a face covering while waiting in line outside of a business/establishment?

Patrons are currently required to wear a mask and physical distance when waiting in line for any food/drink or retail establishment.

How is this being enforced?

The person responsible for the business/establishment is required to ensure that all individuals in the indoor premises of the businesses/establishment are complying with the mandatory face covering regulations.

Public Health Inspectors from HPEPH, as well as municipal bylaw officials, local police officers, and the Ministry of Labour will use a progressive education and enforcement approach to respond to complaints about non-compliance with these requirements.  

When is it OK for me to remove my mask or face covering in a business/establishment??

Patrons are permitted the temporary removal of a mask:

  • when necessary to receive services offered by the establishment/organization (including eating or drinking when dine-in services are allowed)
  • while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities
  • to consume food or drink
  • as is necessary for the purpose of health and safety
  • to be accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act
  • performs work for the organization in an area that is not accessible to the public, and when it is possible to maintain 2 metres of distance from others

Please ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask or face covering.

How do I wear a face covering properly when at the gym or exercising in a business/establishment?

When participating in indoor physical activity/exercise, face coverings should be used by patrons and staff, as frequently as can be tolerated. If an activity or exertion level does not allow for a face covering, members of the public are permitted to remove their face covering temporarily, but should put it on again when the strenuous activity is complete (for example: when stretching, travelling through shared space).

Both patrons and staff should wash their hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing a face covering. Physical distancing must continue to take place in shared indoor spaces such as gyms, and frequent hand washing should be encouraged.

How and when should face coverings be used in indoor dining businesses/establishments?

Members of the public are permitted to temporarily remove their face covering where necessary for the purpose of receiving services such as eating or drinking. HPEPH instructs that patrons keep face coverings on until they are seated at a table, and wear face coverings any time they are moving through a shared space (to/from table, restroom, etc.). In green/prevent zones, taff at dining establishments must always wear PPE that protects their mouth, nose, and eyes when coming within 6 feet of patrons who have removed their mask.

Does a performer or public speaker need to wear a face covering?

Public speakers, clergy, auctioneers, performers are permitted to remove their face covering indoors when they need to speak or perform to a group, however they must remain at least 4 metres from the group, and/or separated by an impermeable barrier. In addition, performers or speakers must maintain a distance of 2 metres between themselves and other performers whenever possible.

Who do I call if I want to report an indoor business/establishment that is not requiring customers wear a face covering?

For more information or to report a non-complying establishment, please submit a complaint using our online form.

Can a person be refused service for not wearing a face covering?

While individuals who refuse to wear a face covering must indicate why they are exempt from the regulations, they do not need to provide proof of exemption. If individuals who are not exempt from face covering requirements refuse to wear a face covering, the business/establishment can prohibit the individual from entering the establishment in order to protect themselves from enforcement.

What is HPEPH doing to support individuals who are unable to wear a face covering?

HPEPH recognizes that certain individuals may be unable to wear a face covering. While individuals must indicate why they are exempt from these requirements, there is no need for establishments to request proof of exemption from these individuals. HPEPH continues to ask for the cooperation of establishments and community members to carry out these requirements with respect and kindness.

Are face coverings mandatory in condominiums or apartment buildings?

Condominiums and/or apartment buildings are considered to be businesses/organizations and, as such, mandatory face covering requirements apply to common areas in these settings.

What is the evidence available that supports wearing of face coverings?

Public Health Ontario has compiled a summary of evidence available on masks: COVID-19 – What we know so far about… wearing masks in public.

What advice do you have for workers who experience fogging of eye glasses (or other eye protection) when they wear a mask?

There are some commercial products on the market (e.g., safety glass wipes and anti-fog spray) that claim to reduce fogging of eyewear. Ill-fitting masks may contribute to fogging of eye glasses. Ensure a secure fit over the nose and across the cheeks. Masks with a bendable metal strip inside the mask work best at providing the secure fit. Some people applied medical tape (tape meant to be applied to skin) to secure the mask over the nose. The glasses should rest on top of the mask.

A simple process of cleaning with soap and water that can be applied to the face shield/glasses, and wiping with alcohol may help reduce the film that may occur on the shields from multiple cleaning.

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Province of Ontario has Declared a Second Provincial Emergency to Address COVID-19 Crisis and Save Lives.  Read more.

Effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the provincial government is issuing a stay-at-home order requiring everyone to remain at home with exceptions for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise or for essential work.

Owner/operators of a businesses, workplaces and/or other community organizations who are unsure of how to adjust operations for COVID-19 are encouraged to visit sector specific guidance regarding provincial lockdown measures at or call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. If you are unable to find an answer to your questions or need further guidance, please fill out this web form.

During the provincewide shutdown, no indoor social gatherings are permitted, except with members of the same household (the people you live with). Individuals who live alone and single parents may consider having exclusive, close contact with another household. Outdoor gatherings must be limited to 5 individuals, and proper physical distancing must be maintained.

If you are concerned about potential exposure to a positive case of COVID-19, please be reassured that any contacts of a confirmed case will be contacted directly and monitored by public health.

Low-risk and indirect contacts should self monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the time of potential exposure and seek testing if symptoms develop. Low risk contacts do not need to isolate unless symptoms develop, and can continue to attend school/work/daycare while monitoring for symptoms.