FAQ – General Public

Last reviewed/updated: 10:19 a.m, October 9, 2020

How does a face covering work?

COVID-19 is a new virus and we are continuing to learn more about the virus, how it affects people and how it is spread. Evidence is showing that wearing a mask or face covering, together with staying home when sick, physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and covering coughs and sneezes is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

Why recommend face coverings now?

The Emergency Order providing the rules for areas in Stage 3 in Ontario was updated on October 3, 2020, to include requirements for the use of masks and face coverings in indoor areas. Prior to that, Peterborough Public Health had a mandatory face covering Directive in effect for our region.

Most businesses and public spaces have reopened. Kids are back to school and sports and recreational activities are occurring. Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a face covering in indoor spaces, along with continued handwashing, physical distancing and staying home when ill, as some of the best public health measures to protect residents and communities from the virus. Wearing a mask or face covering is a means of source control and can help prevent additional cases of COVID-19 in our community.

What is the science/proof that mandatory face coverings work?

COVID-19 is a new virus and we are continuing to learn more about the virus, how it affects people and how it is spread. Evidence is showing that wearing a face covering, together with staying home when sick, physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and covering coughs and sneezes is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus. Public Health Ontario has compiled a summary of evidence available on masks: COVID-19 – What we know so far about… wearing masks in public.

I thought we didn’t have many active cases. Why should I bother wearing a face covering?

While the number of identified “active” cases of COVID-19 remains low in the Peterborough region, there are still COVID-19 cases in many areas in Ontario. With the Stage 3 reopening in Ontario, our residents are starting to travel outside of our local area for shopping and tourism activities.  Additionally, we are seeing an increase in tourists from other areas coming to explore our beautiful Kawarthas. With the increase in live, learn, work, and play activities, we need to be constantly vigilant and use all possible public health measures to protect ourselves, our family, and our communities.

Where do you need to wear a face covering?

A face covering is required in any indoor area of a business or organization (including transit vehicles) that is accessible to members of the public.

Why are face coverings required in transit vehicles (private or public)?

Public transit services and commercial transportation services are settings that may not always allow for physical distancing of 2 metres. Requiring a face covering in these settings gives an added public health measure that should be applied with physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when you are ill.

Will I be expected to wear a face covering at a restaurant?

Yes, however, 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. Patrons should keep their 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.). Staff at dining establishments must always wear face coverings when in a public space AND in any staff space where physical distancing is a challenge (i.e., kitchen, dish cleaning area, etc.).

Are face coverings required in places of worship?

Yes. Everyone attending a place of worship, must wear a face covering the entire time that they are indoors – this includes the people leading the service, ceremony or rite.

The person leading service, ceremony or rite may remove their face covering if:

  1. They are in an area not accessible by the public (delineated and/or posted as such), AND
  2. They are physically distanced by at least 2m from everyone else, AND
  3. A face covering is put back on if they cannot maintain #1 or #2

Face coverings must be worn by people participating in ceremonies, rites, and services (i.e. bride and groom, bridal party, God parents, etc.).

Are face coverings required in gyms or other fitness establishments?

Yes, face coverings are required in the indoor portions of gyms and fitness establishments and 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.

Are face coverings mandatory in common areas of condominiums or apartment buildings?

Yes, face coverings are required in common areas of multi-unit dwellings (condominiums and/or apartment buildings). This includes: laundry room, mail room, parking garages, stairwells, hallways, elevators, and other similar spaces. Face coverings in these spaces are required by tenants, staff, custodians, contractors, caretakers, and anyone attending a social gathering in common area of the building.

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

The Emergency Order (O. Reg. 364/20) requires that every person responsible for a business/ organization that is open shall ensure that any person in the indoor area of the business/organization, or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business/organization, wears a face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period when they are in the indoor area. Individuals who cannot wear a face covering must indicate why they are exempt from the regulations, but they do not need to provide proof of exemption. If individuals who are not exempt refuse to wear a face covering, the business/establishment can prohibit the individual from entering or remaining in the establishment in order to protect themselves from enforcement and according to their rights as an occupier under the Trespass to Property Act.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

A person will be exempt from wearing a face covering if they:

  • are a child who is younger than two years of age;
  • are attending a school or private school within the meaning of the Education Actthat is operated in accordance with a return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
  • are attending a child care program at a place that is in compliance with the child care re-opening guidance issued by the Ministry of Education;
  • are receiving residential services and supports in a residence listed in 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;
  • are in a correctional institution or in a custody and detention program for young persons in conflict with the law;
  • are performing or rehearsing in a film or television production or in a concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance;
  • have a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
  • are unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person;
  • need 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, or
    • as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety;
  • being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
  • being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code; or
  • perform 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.

Do I need to show proof of exemption?

No one is required to provide proof of exemption from wearing a face covering.

What do I do if I see someone without a face covering?

  • Please be respectful as some individuals may be exempt from wearing a face covering. You may also wish to fill out this online complaint formto report non-compliance.

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

Individuals are permitted the temporary removal of a face covering:

  • when necessary to receive services offered by the establishment/organization (including eating or drinking where dine-in services are allowed)
  • while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities
  • 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.

Do we still need to stay 2 metres away from others if I am wearing a face covering?

Yes. Wearing a face covering or mask is not an alternative to all the public health measures that are currently in place:

  • physical distancing,
  • staying home if sick,
  • washing your hands,
  • cough and sneeze etiquette,
  • not touching your face, and
  • cleaning commonly touched surfaces.

It is critical to follow the guides and signs in the store or building (the arrows on the floor, the 2 metre stickers or lines on the floor) to maintain a 2-metre physical distance.

How do I use a face covering properly?

Here is a compilation of resources to learn about wearing a face covering properly:

What type of face covering should I wear? I’ve heard of masks and face coverings, what’s the difference?

A face covering is a commonly used term for non-medical mask and is a way to cover your mouth, nose and chin to prevent droplets (from breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing) from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. The face covering should have a snug fit around the mouth, nose, and chin for the best protection.

There are many types of face coverings available. There are cloth masks that can be washed and reused; homemade face coverings from bandanas, scarfs, or cloths, which can also be washed and reused; disposable face coverings that can only be worn once, and medical masks. A medical mask includes surgical, medical procedure face masks and respirators (like N95 masks). These masks must be kept for healthcare workers and others providing direct care to COVID-19 patients. Do not use plastic or other non-breathable materials to create a face covering.

I am wearing a plastic face shield, is this okay?

When you wear a plastic shield, you do not have a snug fit around your nose, chin, and mouth. A face shield may provide extra precaution for the wearer against droplets from another person, but serve as a form of eye protection, rather than a face covering. Droplets can still be inhaled around the shield. Respiratory droplets from the wearer can also escape around the sides of the face shield, which provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, you should do it in combination with a cloth face covering. (Think about it like a car that has seatbelts AND airbags – both work together to protect the occupants of the car.)

Is a face shield a good alternative for someone who can’t wear a face covering?

Evidence shows that plastic face shields alone are NOT equivalent to wearing a face covering. It does not filter respiratory droplets and does not have a snug fit around the nose, mouth and chin. However, the Centre for Disease Control does support the use of face shields as a “better than nothing” solution to face coverings. At a minimum, the face shield should cover the sides of the face and extend below the chin.

Are clear plastic mouth shields a safe face covering?

Clear plastic mouth shields that rest on the chin and wrap around the sides of the face are NOT equivalent to wearing a face covering.  Mouth shields have significant gaps, particularly around the nose and at the top of the shield. They do not fit closely to the face which means that respiratory droplets can escape. Additionally, these shields cannot be cleaned and disinfected properly between uses.

Are neck gaiters or buffs a safe face covering?

No, neck gaiters or buffs are not considered to be a safe type of face covering due to the limited evidence regarding their effectiveness. Additionally, the type of fabric/material used to produce the neck gaiter may render it to be ineffective. A proper face covering should have 2 or more layers of breathable fabric and have a snug fit around your mouth, nose, and chin with no gaps.

How do I get my child to wear a face covering?

Children can be symptomatic (showing symptoms) or asymptomatic (without symptoms) carriers of COVID-19. Children over the age of 2 should wear a face covering to protect those around them if it is difficult to maintain a distance of 2 metres.

Face coverings are not recommended for children under 2 years of age or wherever one cannot be worn safely. Once a face covering is in place, children should not touch the face covering, as doing so will increase their risk of contamination. If you believe your child can understand and follow the proper etiquette for wearing a face covering, encourage your child to wear one.

You can encourage your child by:

  • Talking with your child
    • Explain why they need to wear a face covering
    • Listen to their feelings and concerns
  • Choose a face covering with your child
    • If you are able to, include your child in selecting it
  • Include in play
    • Have a face covering available in their home environment so they can explore and play with them
  • Remember – You are the role model, so wear your face covering too.

I would like to make my own face covering. How do I do this?

There are many alternatives to purchasing a face covering, including making your own, or using a bandanna or scarf.

Instructions for Do It Yourself face coverings

Follow these links for instructions on how to make a face covering. You will find instructions for both a simple sewing or “no sew” version:

What should I consider when selecting a face covering?

Cloth face coverings should not:

  • Contain plastic, paper tissues or other non-breathable materials
  • Be shared with others, including those in your household
  • Impair vision or interfere with tasks

Things to consider when choosing to wear a cloth face covering:

  • They may not block all the virus droplets that are spread through coughing or sneezing
  • They should fit snugly but comfortably over the nose and against the side of your face, be secured with ties or ear loops and allow for easy breathing
  • They should be made of cloth that tolerates frequent washing and drying. Cloth face coverings should be discarded if the material is frayed or has holes

How do I wear a face covering in hot weather?

When a 2-metre distance cannot be maintained, wearing a face covering will help reduce the spread of COVID-19. In extreme heat wearing a face covering can be uncomfortable. In an outdoor setting, a face covering may not be necessary if you can keep 2 metres away from others.

Tips to beat the heat while wearing a face covering:

  • Plan your outing during the coolest time of the day.
  • Move to shade or a cooler environment to take breaks from the heat.
  • Take breaks.
  • Decrease intensity of the activity performed.
  • Keep a spare handy. You may need to change your face covering more frequently in hot, humid temperatures as it may become damp more quickly.

How is this being enforced?

The person responsible for the business/establishment will ensure that all individuals in the indoor premises of the businesses/establishment are wearing a face covering.

Public Health Inspectors from Peterborough Public Health, as well as municipal by-law officers, local police officers, and the Ministry of Labour will respond to complaints about non-compliance with these requirements and take enforcement action where indicated.