Masks or Face Coverings

The Province of Ontario recommends 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. A non-medical mask or face covering protects other people from your germs. Please see the province of Ontario's factsheet on non-medical masks and face coverings.

Face coverings and Huron Perth Public Health Instructions

Effective Friday, July 17, 2020, as of 12:01 a.m. all owners/operators of indoor commercial and indoor public spaces, including employers, businesses and organizations in Huron and Perth counties, must have policies in place requiring the use of face coverings in their establishments. 

The areas of an establishment that are subject to the face covering requirements are:

  • Any areas in which visitors interact with one another or with staff members, OR
  • Any areas that are open or accessible to members of the public

These Instructions to employers, businesses and organizations in Huron and Perth counties [PDF] were issued by Dr. Miriam Klassen, Medical Officer of Health for Huron Perth Public Health under the authority of the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (Government of Ontario).

Summary of Instructions

As an OWNER/OPERATOR of an establishment: Owners and operators of establishments, as well as public transit, must have policies in place that require people visiting their business to wear a face covering.

As a VISITOR to an establishment: You are expected to wear a face covering when you are inside an establishment or on public transit. The face covering must cover your nose, mouth and chin, without gaping.

Some people cannot wear a mask for various reasons and are exempt from wearing a face covering. Proof of exemption is not required and should never be asked for by an owner/operator or other visitor.

OWNER/OPERATORS and VISITORS: Please demonstrate and encourage kindness at all times and continue to be respectful and patient.

 Resources for owners/operators
 Please refer to the following resources and check back often for new resources:

Frequently Asked Questions: Instructions on face coverings

Please refer back frequently, as information is regularly updated.

Why are these Instructions being issued now?

While cases of COVID-19 are currently low in Huron Perth, the risk for ongoing spread of COVID-19 remains as the re-opening process continues across our region.

Accumulating epidemiological evidence indicates that the widespread use of face coverings by all persons decreases the spread of respiratory droplets, and expert opinion supports the widespread use of face coverings to decrease transmission of COVID-19. As we prepare for Stage 3 reopening and increased human interactions, we need to use all public health measures possible to reduce the spread of COVID-19. We have also been asked by many businesses for public health direction on this issue.

The use of masks or face coverings in establishments is an additional public health measure (along with physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, and staying home when sick) which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the community.

 What is an establishment? Which ones are included in the Instructions?
Establishments are premises that are openly accessible to members of the public and are used for the purposes of offering goods or services to members of the public, including, but not limited to, a mall or other structure containing business or organization premises.

The areas of an establishment that are subject to the face covering requirements are:

  • Any areas in which visitors interact with one another or with staff members, OR
  • Any areas that are open or accessible to members of the public

Areas of an establishment that are not subject to the face covering requirements are:

  • Areas that are outside (e.g. a restaurant patio)
  • Areas that are not open or accessible to members of the public

Employees are not required to wear masks under these Instructions if:

  • They are in an area of the establishment where the public does not have access and they can maintain a two metre distance
  • They are protected from interactions with the public by a barrier such as plexiglass

The Instructions currently include the following establishments in Huron and Perth:
Face coverings are required in these premises:

  • Arcades and other indoor amusement facilities
  • Buses, bus shelters,
  • Hotels and motels, with the exception of rented rooms
  • Indoor areas of food premises, with the exception of patrons consuming food/drink
  • Indoor areas of fitness centres, gyms and recreational and sports facilities
  • Indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas
  • Laundromats
  • Lobby areas of commercial buildings
  • Municipal buildings
  • Museums, galleries, historic sites, etc.
  • Personal Service Settings
  • Places of worship
  • Professional services such as counselling, personal care, funeral homes, repair and rental services
  • Stores and shopping malls
  • Taxis, limousines, ride-share vehicles
 What establishments are NOT included in the Instructions?

Exemptions (Note that some groups may have existing legislation guiding their premises)

  • Day cares, schools, post-secondary institutions and other facilities used solely for educational purposes
  • School transportation vehicles
  • Hospitals and portions of buildings used by regulated health professionals
  • Buildings and services owned or operated by the Province of Ontario or the Federal Government of Canada
  • Portions of community centres, arenas or other buildings that are being used for the purpose of providing day camps for children or for the training of amateur or professional athletes 
  • Portions of community centres, arenas or other buildings owned or operated by the Municipality used for the purposes of providing community services or programs for which registration or prebooking for a group is required.
 What are the Instructions?
These Instructions require owner/operators to make best efforts to require people entering their business to wear face coverings.

There is no requirement for a business to supply face coverings, however doing so may be an appreciated service by customers. Efforts are underway, in collaboration with our municipalities, to make cloth masks more available.

Owner/operators are also required to implement screening practices for employees and members of the public. Screening can be active (asking questions) and/or passive (signage). For employees, screening is best completed prior to reporting to work. For members of the public, signage at all entrances can be used to inform visitors of new protocols during this phase of reopening public buildings. Examples of passive screening signage can be found on the Huron Perth Public Health and the Ministry of Health’s websites.

Owner/operators must ensure alcohol-based hand rub is available at all entrances and exits for the use of all Persons entering or exiting the premises if a sink is not available.

 What does “best efforts” mean?
 “Best efforts” means:
  • Signage at the entry informing visitors of the requirement to wear a mask as per the Medical Officer of Health’s Instructions 
  • If greeting visitors at the door, give a verbal reminder that the visitor should be wearing a face covering if they can
  • Give a verbal reminder to visitors who remove their face covering for extended periods of time while in the business

NOTE: There is not a need for a business to turn away the customer to achieve the best effort standard.

 What is considered a mask or face covering according to these Instructions?
A face covering means a medical or non-medical mask or other face coverings such as a bandana, a scarf or cloth. The face covering must cover a person’s nose, mouth and chin without gaping.

Face shields are not acceptable forms of a face covering for the purpose of these Instructions because they are not as effective for source protection (source protection means that the person wearing the mask is less likely to transmit infection to others). However, they may be used in situations where an individual is unable to use any other type of face covering.

 Who is exempt from wearing a mask or face covering in an establishment?
The following people are exempt from wearing a mask or face covering under the Instructions:
  • Children under the age of two years
  • Children who cannot understand the need for a mask, refuse to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver
  • A person who is unable to put on or remove their face covering without assistance
  • A person whose breathing would be inhibited in any way by wearing a face covering
  • A person who, for any other physical or mental health medical reason, cannot safely wear a face covering. This includes, but is not limited to people with respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties, difficulties in hearing or sensory processing disorders, anxiety.
  • A person for whom a religious reason prevents them from wearing a face covering that is compliant with the definition of face covering in these Instructions.

Note – ‘Person’ means any customer, patron, employee or visitor, who enters the premises.

Do I need proof of exemption, such as a card?
No proof is required for an exemption from wearing face coverings. Public health is not asking businesses to check or require documentation for not wearing a mask, and no official exemption documentation has been developed as it is not needed. Some centres are reporting that fake Mask Medical Exemption Cards are being distributed. While they may appear legitimate, these cards are NOT real and not needed.
 Can I go further to make masks mandatory in my establishment?

Yes, as long as it does not violate any other laws, such as human rights codes. You may want to seek legal advice. 

While it is a store owner’s prerogative to turn a customer away according to their policy, that policy is not aligned with the Health Unit’s Instructions and therefore the Health Unit would not enforce it.

What is an acceptable barrier (e.g. drive throughs)
A drive-through, outdoor patio or walk-up window are outdoor areas. Masks are recommended but not required.
Barriers should be an impermeable material. If you are indoors, and you can remain behind a barrier, except for your hands, below face level, when exchanging goods, then a mask is recommended, but not required.
Should I send an employee home if they can’t wear a mask?
Our instructions do not require employees to wear masks if they aren’t able to. Please follow applicable HR policies as well as labour and employment legislation.
 How is this being enforced?

Operators of establishments are expected to use their “best efforts” to implement their face covering policies. This means that signs and verbal reminders are used but there is not a requirement that a business turn away the customer. These Instructions are to be enacted and enforced in good faith and should be primarily used as a means to educate people on the importance of face covering use in enclosed spaces.

  • These Instructions are intended to decrease risk for our community on a population level by requiring mask use of those who can wear masks in the community setting.
  • HPPH fully understands and expects that some people cannot wear masks
  • HPPH is not asking for owners/operators to deny service to people who cannot wear masks and is not recommending that they do so. Other measures such as signage (asking people with symptoms to not enter the shop), hand hygiene and physical distancing can be used for people who cannot wear masks.

Please refer to the HPPH Discussion Guide for Owners/Operators.

It would not be feasible to enforce this policy strictly and that is not the intent. The goal is to increase mask use among those of us who are able.

Huron Perth Public Health will be taking a progressive enforcement approach to ensure compliance, with enforcement measures focusing on education. However, pursuant to the EMCPA, people who do not comply with the above-noted requirements may be fined $750-$1,000, and up to a maximum of $100,000. Corporations may also be fined not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

As part of these Public Health Instructions, the Medical Officer of Health encourages everyone to be kind, patient, and respectful to one another. Navigating this pandemic is our individual and our shared responsibility. These lnstructions count on everyone’s best intentions.

What if I see someone not wearing a mask?

Calling in complaints is not necessary. We’ve provided information to owners and operators regarding this policy, including exemptions. We ask everyone to be kind and understanding when others can’t wear masks, and to physically distance from them. Please note the Instructions are not a Section 22 making it mandatory, they are a good faith requirement.
The use of masks or face coverings in establishments is an additional public health measure (along with physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, and staying home when sick) which will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the community.
 Under what authority are these Instructions being issued?
These Instructions are being issued by Huron Perth Public Health’s Medical Officer of Health under the authority of Ontario Regulation 263/20 – Stage 2 Closures s.4(2) of the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) and related Regulations, or otherwise.
 When are these Instructions in effect? How long must people comply with these Instructions?
Instructions are effective 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020. Establishments currently operating will be required to follow these Instructions as long as provisions are in force to follow public health advice, recommendations and Instructions. The policy will be reviewed regularly, as new evidence becomes available and in accordance with our local and regional epidemiology. Additionally, HPPH will monitor the impacts of these instructions.
Support for businesses

Please refer to the following resources and check back often for new resources:

Frequently Asked Questions: face coverings in specific situations

 Do people need to wear masks during athletic or fitness activity in indoor facilities?
Temporary removal of the mask is permitted where necessary for the purposes of receiving services, or while actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity.
 Do customers at outdoor patios have to wear a face covering?
The definition of “Establishment” applies only to indoor portions of a restaurant that can be accessed by members of the public under the current Emergency Order. The owner or operator of the establishment must apply their policy requiring face coverings when clients enter the building (e.g. to use the facilities, pick up takeout food, etc.). While at your patio table, customers are not required to wear a face covering. However, the business is required to ensure physical distancing between tables.
 Are religious officiants exempt from wearing a mask when leading a ceremony?
The officiant (e.g. minister, imam) of a religious ceremony can choose to not wear a mask if standing in an area of the religious space that is separate from the public attending the ceremony. The officiant should use a microphone to project their voice to reduce the risk of respiratory droplets being spread; and preferably not participate in any singing or chanting. The officiant should stand at least 5 metres from the people attending and if there is more than one officiant, they should be spaced at least 2 metres apart from each other and not be facing each other.
 Can a congregation in a place of worship sing?
We recommend against congregations singing. Please refer to the provincial COVID-19 Advice: Religious Services, Rites or Ceremonies for further information.
If limited number of singers (2-3) are at front of worship service and are physically distanced, do they need to wear masks?  
The singers should stand at least 5 metres from the people attending and if there is more than one singer, they should be spaced at least 2 metres apart from each other and not be facing each other. A mask is recommended but not required.
Do people who attend weddings have to wear masks?
Weddings are private events, not an event for the public to attend. For private events we recommend maintaining 2 metres distance between people not in your social circle. Masks are not required.
The province has announced that as part of Stage 3, people gathering indoors for wedding ceremonies can continue to fill up to 30 per cent of the capacity of the particular room. The new provincial limits on gatherings apply to wedding receptions.
What if I am working at a private event such as a wedding (e.g. caterer, photographer)
Because you are working at the private event, you would need to keep 2 metres from others or wear a mask.

Frequently Asked Questions: masks and other face coverings

 How do masks or face coverings work?

Wearing a mask or face covering helps to trap COVID-19 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 or face covering. When other people wear a mask or face covering they are helping to protect you as well.

Wearing a mask or face covering should not replace other protective measures including physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms.

What is the evidence supporting masks?

We do have accumulating epidemiological evidence that the widespread use of face coverings by all persons decreases the spread of respiratory droplets, and expert opinion supports the widespread use of face coverings to decrease transmission of COVID-19.


The evidence is not strong enough for a Section 22 in Huron-Perth but the evidence is such that it’s recommended as an additional layer to prevent community transmission. This is an added tool as we re-open and increase interactions between people. Controlling community transmission will be important as we look towards even more re-openings (such as schools).

Are masks safe to wear?

Many people safely wear masks in different environments (e.g. healthcare) for prolonged periods of time. Remember that you are only required to wear a mask when you are inside indoor settings where the public interact.
 What type of mask or face covering should I wear?

There are many types of masks or face coverings available including non-medical cloth masks that can be washed and reused, disposable masks that can only be worn once and medical masks such as N95 repirators that should be reserved for front-line health care workers.

Masks or Face Coverings

When buying or making a mask or face covering you should look for masks or face coverings that are made with:

  • Two or three layers of tightly woven but breathable cloth such as cotton, flannel or quilting cotton
  • No seams over the mouth and nose through which air may leak
  • Horizontal pleats to help fit a variety of faces

A good cloth mask or face covering should:

  • Cover over nose, mouth and chin, and be easy to breathe through
  • Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops without gaping or impairing vision
  • Be comfortable to avoid the need for adjustments when wearing
  • Maintain their shape after washing and drying
  • Not contain non-breathable materials such as plastic

For instructions on making a mask using fabric, a t-shirt or a bandanna, visit the Government of Canada website.


Disposable non-medical face masks

Disposable non-medical face masks may also be worn. These masks are single use masks and should be thrown out and replaced as soon as they get slightly wet, dirty or crumpled. Remember to dispose of masks properly in a lined garbage bin. Do not leave discarded masks in shopping carts, on the ground, etc.


Medical masks

To preserve supplies for healthcare workers, medical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for specific high-risk settings and are not recommended for lower-risk day-to-day activities, like when you are in a grocery store or while taking public transportation. N95 respirators with valves, which let air out more easily when you breath out, should never be used when the intent is to protect others from the virus you may be shedding because they will not trap the virus.

Where can I get a mask or face covering?

Non-medical masks are available at a variety of price points. United Way Perth-Huron has compiled a list of where to find masks in Perth and Huron Counties and encourages those who have difficulty with the cost to apply to their urgent needs fund. Individuals can also call 2-1-1 or visit to access this information.

 What is the proper way to use a mask or face covering?

Visit the Government of Canada's website for instructions on how to put on, remove and clean non-medical masks and face coverings. See also the poster on the do's and don'ts of wearing a non-medical mask or face covering.


  • Do not share your mask with others
  • Wash your hands before putting on and after taking off a mask
  • Place the mask over your nose, mouth and chin
  • Avoid touching your face and mask while using it
  • Change your mask as soon as it is moist or dirty. Do not add substances, such as essential oils, to a mask.
  • Do not leave your mask tucked under the chin, hanging from your ear, or on your forehead
  • Remove the mask by the ear loops without touching the front of the mask
  • Put used mask in a plastic bag or directly in the laundry bin to be washed
  • Launder cloth masks with other items using the hot cycle and dryer
 Who should not use masks or face coverings?

Face coverings should not be placed on or used by:

  • Children under the age of two
  • Anyone who has trouble breathing
  • Anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance
 Wearing 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 a six feet distance.
  • Wearing a mask outdoors is necessary in situations where proper physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Bring spares - 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. 
  • Consider choosing a breathable material.
  • Plan outdoor activities for the coolest times of the day and take breaks in the shade or a cool environment if you find wearing a face covering uncomfortable in the heat.
  • 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.
 Masks and exercise

Wearing a mask when exercising may not be possible because of higher heart and breathing rates. Exercising without a mask is safer outdoors if there are people around who are not from your own household. If you are exercising outdoors, briefly passing someone on the sidewalk or road is not considered a significant risk for exposure to COVID-19. When exercising outdoors (such as jogging, cycling or skateboarding) here are some ways to stay safe:

  • Maintain at least a two-metre (six feet) distance from others
  • When in single file, spacing needs to increase with speed of movement
  • Step-aside or pass others quickly and courteously on sidewalks
  • If you are with others, travel in single file to allow others to pass safely
  • If possible, consider using shared paths and sidewalks when it's less busy