Masks or Face Coverings

Roadmap to Reopen: Ontario, including Huron Perth, is currently in Step 3 of Ontario's Roadmap to Reopen. During Step 3 of the Roadmap, we must all continue to follow the public health measures, advice and restrictions that are in place. 
A face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask) can reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 when physical distancing and keeping two-metres (6 feet) 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 provincial legislation

Please refer to provincial legislation for updated requirements on face coverings. Learn more about face covering requirements for landlords and common areas.

Information for employers, organizations and operators

Visit our COVID-19 Information: Workplaces, Employers, Employees page for information on Public Health Instructions for organizations and a Step-by-Step COVID-19 Prevention: Business and Organization Tool Kit.

Frequently asked questions: Instructions on face coverings

Information on this page may change frequently. Please check back regularly for updates. 

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
What establishments are NOT included in the Instructions?

Some groups may already have existing legislation, guidance or public health instructions guiding their business or organization during Stage 3:

  • Day cares, public schools, private 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 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 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?
Please see the province's list of exemptions for face coverings

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

Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on lip reading to help understand verbal messages, and masks may create a barrier. Employees should keep an open mind when communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, particularly when wearing a mask, and let the person suggest their preferred way of communicating.

There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may require an employee to remove their mask or face covering to speak to the customer. We remind anyone removing their mask or face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.

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. 

Such a policy also does not align with the provincial mandatory mask requirement. Both the Health Unit’s Instructions and the Provincial regulation outlines certain situations when a person would be exempt from wearing a mask, for example children younger than two, and those with health and accommodation exemptions.

If you are going to have a policy that doesn’t allow anyone into your business without a mask, you should consider alternate means for your customers such as online or curbside.

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?

Huron Perth Public Health will be taking a progressive enforcement approach to ensure compliance with these instructions. Enforcement measures include focusing on education, however, pursuant to the ROA, people and businesses who do not comply with the above-noted requirements may be fined where significant non-compliance concerns are identified.

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.

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 the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID‐19) Act, 2020 and associated regulations, in particular Ontario Regulation 364/20 Rules for Areas in Stage 3
When are these Instructions in effect? How long must people comply with these Instructions?

Instructions became 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. These Instructions will be reviewed regularly by Huron Perth Public Health.

These Instructions will remain in effect until further notice from Huron Perth Public Health; any decision on an end date will depend on whether legislation still calls for adherence to public health advice, recommendations and instructions, and whether there is still evidence of virus transmission.

Frequently asked questions: Face coverings in specific situations

Are face coverings required in places of worship?

Yes, currently under O. Reg. 364/20, everyone attending a place of worship for the purpose of a religious service, ceremony or rite, must wear a face covering the entire time that they are indoors. Physical distancing is still required between all individuals who do not live in the same household even when wearing a mask.

There are some situations when you do not need to wear a face covering. For a list of exemptions, please refer to O. Reg. 364/20: Rules for Areas in Stage 3 and the Huron Perth Public Health Instructions for Employers posted above. You do not need to provide proof of exemption.

See our COVID-19 Information: Places of Worship page for more information on religious services, rites and ceremonies. 

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.
Do people who attend weddings have to wear masks?

Yes. Masks are required in places of worship, indoor spaces, and outdoors where physical distancing of two metres cannot be maintained.

What if I am working at a private event such as a wedding (e.g. caterer, photographer)
Masks are required in indoor spaces, and outdoors where physical distancing of two metres cannot be maintained.

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.


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 respirators. N95s 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:

  • Three layers of tightly woven but breathable cloth such as cotton, linen, 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

If you currently own a 2-layer non-medical mask, you do not need to throw away your mask. When making or buying more masks, consider the 3-layer mask for improved protection.

A good cloth mask or face covering should:

  • Be made of at least three layers with 2 layers of 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. 
  • 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

Keep in mind that wearing a non-medical face mask alone will not prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is important to avoid crowded and closed spaces with poor ventilation, stay home when you are sick, avoid close contact with others outside of your household, and to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. 

For instructions on making a mask using fabric, a t-shirt or a bandana, 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.

Does wearing two masks provide more protection?

At this time, there is no recommendation for individuals to wear more than one mask at a time. It is important that the mask is made of 2-3 layers and fits well with no gaps.

Wearing a mask is just one public health measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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 paper 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 2 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
Communicating with people who have a hearing impairment

Some people who are deaf or hard of hearing rely on lip reading to help understand verbal messages, and masks may create a barrier. Employees should keep an open mind when communicating with a person who is deaf or hard of hearing, particularly when wearing a mask, and let the person suggest their preferred way of communicating.

There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may require an employee to remove their mask or face covering to speak to the customer. We remind anyone removing their mask or face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) away from others.