FAQ – General Public

Last reviewed/updated: 10:00 a.m. July 24, 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?

As more businesses and public spaces open and people increase their contacts, the risk of an outbreak is ever-present. Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a face covering, along with continued handwashing, physical distancing and staying home if sick, as some of the best public health measures to protect us from the virus. Although we have seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, we want to be sure we continue to see a decrease as we move towards the reopening of more businesses within the province. This is even more true as we enter Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan. The use of non-medical masks or face coverings in public places, will help to protect all of us.

What is the science/proof that mandatory masks 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, 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.

Here is a paper from Public Health Ontario on the scientific evidence known at this point about masks. (www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/covid-wwksf/what-we-know-public-masks-apr-7-2020.pdf?la=en)

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

As of today, there are no “identified” active cases of COVID-19 in the Peterborough region, but there are still COVID-19 cases in many areas in Ontario. With the Stage 3 reopening in many parts of 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?

The mandatory face covering Directive applies to public indoor areas and includes, but is not limited to, the following types of places:

  • commercial establishments like stores and restaurants,
  • public transit services,
  • and commercial transportation services

Why only commercial establishments and public transit/private transportation?

As the province reopens and residents start to do more activities to live, learn, work, and play, we want to make sure that all possible public health measures are used to prevent the spread of COVID-19.  Commercial establishments, public transit services, and commercial transportation services are settings that may not always allow for physical distancing of 2 metres, which is why these are the focus settings for this Directive. However, wearing a face covering is not an alternative to physical distancing. Every effort should be made to keep a 2-metre distance even when wearing a face covering.

Will I be expected to wear one at a restaurant?

Face coverings will be required by patrons visiting restaurants when they are NOT seated at a table (i.e. going inside to pay, or using the washroom).

Are face coverings required in places of worship?

Places of worship are not considered commercial establishments and are therefore not required to have a policy for mandatory face coverings.  However, Peterborough Public Health strongly recommends that all establishments, businesses, and organizations develop a policy requiring face coverings whenever 2 metres of physical distance cannot be maintained.

Is there an end date for the Directive?

The Directive will remain in effect until further notice from Peterborough Public Health. At this time, there is no specific end date for public health measures related to COVID-19 as control measures are dependent on the progression of the pandemic.

How do I use a face covering properly?

Safely Putting ON a Face Covering

  1. Wash your hands*
  2. Put on the face covering, adjust it to face (cover nose and mouth)
  3. Avoid touching the inside of the face covering
  4. Do not share it with others
  5. If it gets slightly wet or dirty, change your face covering for a new one.

Safely Taking OFF a Face Covering

  1. Wash or sanitize your hands*
  2. Place it into lined garbage bin (if disposable)
  3. Wash your hands again.

*Wash or sanitize your hands before putting the face covering on, before touching it or adjusting it, before taking it off and after taking it off.

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 way to cover your mouth and nose to prevent droplets (from breathing, talking, coughing or sneezing) from contaminating others or landing on surfaces. There are many types of masks or face coverings available. There are cloth masks that can be washed and reused; face coverings such as a bandana, scarf, or cloth, which can also be washed and reused; disposable masks 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.

How to wear, handle, and care for a homemade mask

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 mask.

A face shield is not a substitute to wearing a mask or face covering. It does not filter respiratory droplets and does not have a snug fit around the nose, mouth and chin. However, the WHO, (World Health Organization) supports 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. (www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover-guidance.html,


What about my child?

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.

What to do if I cannot find anywhere to buy a face covering?

There are many alternatives to purchasing a face covering, including making your own, or using a bandanna or scarf. Peterborough Public Health is currently working with community partners to share opportunities to obtain face coverings locally.

Instructions on Do It Yourself face coverings

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

Who should not wear a cloth face covering?

Cloth face coverings should not be placed on:

  • Young children under the age of two
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unable to remove the face covering without help
  • Anyone who is unconscious or incapacitated

Things to consider when selecting a cloth 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

Some tips for face coverings during 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.

Where will face coverings not be required?

Currently, the mandatory face covering requirement applies only to enclosed commercial businesses like stores and restaurants, public transit and commercial transit.

Certain services, where it is not possible to wear a face covering, such as at the dentist, will allow you to temporarily remove it while you are receiving those services. Other situations include:

  • When communicating with someone with hearing difficulties;
  • Actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities;
  • Consuming food or drink;
  • While receiving services to areas of the face that would otherwise be covered by a face covering, when and where any such services are permitted under the regulations;
  • For any emergency or medical purpose

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 (see next section). You may also wish to fill out this online complaint form to report non-compliance.

Do I need to show proof of exemption?

No one is required to provide proof of exemption from wearing a face covering. Businesses should not ask for proof.

Who is exempt from wearing a face covering?

  • A child under the age of two years; or a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
  • A person incapacitated and unable to remove their face covering without assistance;
  • Any person who is wearing a face covering that would inhibit the person’s ability to breathe such as, but not limited to, during athletic, fitness or physical activity or any activity that would preclude its use (such as swimming);
  • Any person who cannot safely wear a face covering because of medical reasons, such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing
  • For any religious reason, the person cannot wear a face

Will face coverings be required at schools or daycare?

The Peterborough Public Health Directive issued on July 20, 2020 is directed to owners and operators of commercial establishments, public transit, and commercial transportation located within the geographical region served by Peterborough Public Health.  Schools under the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, as amended, child care centres and providers governed by the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c. 11, as amended, and day camps are not part of this directive.

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

Yes. Wearing a 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 remains important to follow the guides and signs in the store or building (like the arrows on the floor, the 2 metres stickers or lines on the floor) to maintain a 2-metre physical distance.