covid 19 virus

FAQ for Establishments Implementing Mandatory Non-Medical Mask or Face Covering Policies

Lasted Edited/Reviewed: 10:01 a.m. July 8, 2020

Respiratory infections may spread from respiratory droplets from infected individuals through coughing, sneezing, and speaking. COVID-19 transmission can occur even when someone is not showing symptoms. As businesses and services reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to implement policies and safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus and to protect the health and wellbeing of employees, patrons, and local residents. Using a non-medical mask or face covering is a method of source control, but to reduce the risk of transmission, it must be accompanied with other measures including, physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and good hand hygiene. Wearing a non-medical mask or face covering has not been proven to protect the person wearing it, but instead can protect others. As such, requiring the use of a non-medical masks or face covering in any indoor non-health care public setting where physical distancing is not constantly maintained is an important strategy to control COVID-19 transmission. Examples of indoor non-health care public settings include, grocery or retail stores, public transit, and food establishments

Why recommend masks now?

As more businesses and public spaces open and people increase their contacts, the risk of a rapid rise in infections and outbreaks is ever-present.

Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission, while the risk of rising rates of infection continues.


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General Information
Making and Caring for Your Non-medical Mask
For Employees and Workplaces


General Information

Why implement a mandatory cloth mask policy?

Public health recommends that people use a face covering (for example, non-medical mask, cloth mask) in public to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 to other people when physical distancing may be a challenge or not possible.

It is recommended that you use a face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask) to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when physical distancing and keeping two-metres’ distance from others may be challenging or not possible, such as:

  • public transit
  • grocery stores, pharmacies, retail shops
  • when you are receiving essential services

Will a cloth mask prevent COVID-19?

Wearing a cloth mask helps to trap COVID-19 if you are sick and protects people who are around you. Since some people who are infected with COVID-19 may have the virus and not know it, whenever people are going out and might come into close contact with other people they should wear a mask. When other people wear a mask they are helping to protect you as well.

Mask wearing cannot guarantee protection from the virus and should not replace proven measures such as frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, practicing physical distancing and staying at home if you are sick.

To protect yourself and others from COVID-19, everyone should:

  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Avoid groups of people and crowded spaces
  • Maintain physical distance (at least two metres or six feet) whenever possible
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with tissues or your sleeve and wash your hands immediately after

Who should not wear a cloth mask?

Cloth masks should not be placed on:

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

Things to consider when selecting a cloth mask

Cloth masks 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 mask:

  • 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 masks should be discarded if the material is frayed or has holes

Masks in the heat?

Wearing a mask is important to decrease the transmission of COVID-19 in any indoor setting where it may be difficult to maintain at least a two-metre or six feet distance.

  • Wearing a mask outdoors is necessary in situations when proper physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Although wearing masks may become more uncomfortable in hot temperatures, they will still work. You may need to change your mask more frequently in hot and humid temperatures as it may become damp more quickly.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of the day and take breaks in the shade or cool environment if you find wearing a face mask uncomfortable in the heat.

Can a face shield be used as a substitute or replacement to a cloth mask?

A face shield is not a substitute for wearing a face mask as it does not filter respiratory droplets. A face shield may provide additional 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, which therefore provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend – if possible – to wear it in addition to a properly fitted cloth masks.

Is a face shield a good substitute for someone who can’t wear a mask?

A face shield would not be considered an equal substitute for a face mask as it does not provide filtering capacity. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of face shields as a “better than nothing” alternative to facemasks if there is a shortage of non-medical masks or for populations who are not able to properly wear non-medical masks, such as individuals with a respiratory condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. The WHO makes note that face shields are inferior to facemasks at preventing the spread of an infection through droplets and at a minimum should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face.

Where to find a homemade mask in Peterborough

Are you looking for a handmade mask to wear in public places where physical distancing  more difficult to maintain? This is a list of several local organizations in Peterborough who are currently making and selling/donating fabric masks.

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Making and Caring for Your Non-medical Mask

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

Our good friends at PRHC have put together this quick video that shows how to properly use and take care of homemade masks.  Health Canada has produced this video: COVID-19: How to wear a non-medical mask or face covering properly

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For Employees and Workplaces

Develop your COVID-19 workplace safety plan

Whether you are currently operating or planning for your employees’ safe return to work, the COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan will help you identify which safety controls are needed to ensure the space is safe for everyone.  Non-medical masks or face coverings are one of the controls non-health care establishments can require for staff and patrons through the development of a workplace policy. Below are Frequently Asked Questions that should be considered when developing a mandatory non-medical mask or face covering policy for your establishment.

Am I required to provide face coverings or non-medical masks for staff?

Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers have to take precautions to keep workers safe. As a worker, you also have the right to refuse unsafe work.

Learn about the rules, how to stay safe on the job and your rights during COVID-19.

If you have concerns about your health and safety that your employer is not addressing, you can file a complaint with the Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

Am I required to provide face coverings or non-medical masks for customers?

Before your business reopens, you need a plan for how to protect your employees and customers from COVID-19. Get started by reviewing sector-specific guidelines for ideas, best practices and information about personal protective equipment (PPE).

If you need help accessing PPE, please visit the Workplace PPE Supplier Directory.

Should my staff wear their masks all day?

A mask can be worn all day as long as it does not become damaged, damp or dirty. Do not share your mask with others. Remove your mask with clean hands when you are safely able to do so and wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not place your used mask into your pocket. It is important to note that:

  • Cloth masks:
    • 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 until ready to use it again the same day.
    • Should be placed directly into the washing machine. You can place a cloth mask in a plastic bag for a short time to transport it home to launder.
  • Disposable masks:
    • Should be removed and replaced if soiled, damaged or hard to breathe through
    • Are for one time use only and need to be thrown into the garbage after use

Outdoor workers: For people undertaking physical exertion in heat, a mask can make the effort more difficult. Decreasing intensity and volume of work, taking more frequent rests and taking more cooling breaks may be necessary. Discuss with your employer.

How can I support my staff?

Train staff on the policy including how to respond if various circumstances:

  • What to do if a customer arrives without a mask because they forgot or don’t have one?
  • What to do if a customer says they are exempt from wearing a mask?
  • What information can a staff member provide to a customer who wants more information about the science on the use of masks?

Where can I buy or find masks for my establishment?

Review a list of companies that sell personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies to keep your employees and customers safe from COVID-19. Visit the Workplace PPE Supplier Directory.

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