Please note that this FAQ is directed at the general public. There is a separate mandatory mask FAQ that is more specific to employers and employees.
Across Ontario, it is mandatory that the general public and employees wear a mask or other form of face covering in indoor spaces of a business or organization, including business vehicles, and when lined up or congregating outside of an establishment (unless exemptions apply).
This Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page is to help the public understand what is expected under the mandatory mask requirements.
- Get a mask/face covering if you don’t already have one. Make one if you are able.
- Review how to use and care for them properly. You can find information on making, wearing and caring for masks the Masks or Face Coverings page.
- Make sure the masks fit properly. Masks or face coverings should cover your mouth, nose and chin. You may need to make adjustments so that they are worn effectively and don’t cause problems like slipping down, having gaps, and/or fogging glasses.
- If you think you may have difficulty wearing a mask/face covering, we encourage you to try them out for a short period of time, or try other types of face coverings that may work better for you.
- A properly constructed and fitted mask is the recommended option. Other face coverings that cover the nose, mouth and chin are reasonable alternatives.
- Keep in mind that wearing a mask or face covering provides an additional layer of protection against COVID-19. A mask is not a replacement for other public health measures. It is important to continue all the other prevention measures, such as physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if you have any symptoms.
Yes, non-medical masks and face coverings are not standardized, certified personal protective equipment. Therefore, physical distancing is still an important practice for preventing the spread of COVID-19, even when you are wearing a mask or face covering.
A mask refers to a non-medical cloth mask, medical mask or other face covering, that serves the purpose of catching respiratory droplets. It should securely cover the nose, mouth, and chin and be in contact with the surrounding face without gapping. The mask should be comfortable to the wearer, should allow for easy breathing and should not need frequent repositioning or readjusting. For more information, including cleaning of reusable masks, see the Masks and Face Coverings page. The Public Health Agency of Canada also has recommendations for masks.
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. When wearing a face shield, it is recommended to also wear a properly fitted mask.
In accordance with current regulations, the following exemptions are allowed if the person:
- is a child who is younger than two years of age;
- is performing or rehearsing in a film or television production or in a concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance;
- has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
- is unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person;
- is being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
- is being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code; or
- is an employee working in an area that is not accessible to the public and they are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person at ALL times.
Those who are exempt should not be required to provide proof of exemption.
(Note: masking requirements and exemptions in schools, child care settings, residential service facilities, and correctional facilities may differ. Refer to regulations and guidance documents for those specific settings for details.)
The person responsible for a business or organization could receive a provincial fine of $750 or more if they do not ensure that every person in the business’s indoor area, including business vehicles, wears a mask or face covering, unless exemptions apply. Businesses and organizations are also required to have a mandatory mask policy in place according to the TBDHU Mandatory Mask Directive.
If an unmasked person is in an indoor area of a business or organization, including a business vehicle, and an exemption has not been claimed, they should be asked to put on a mask. If the person does not cooperate, they may then be asked to leave and to find alternate ways of accessing goods and services, such as through shopping online or curb-side pick-up.
Remember that a non-medical masks are primarily used for “source control”, meaning each person’s mask functions more to protect those around them than to protect themselves. Therefore, an unmasked person represents a potential hazard to those around them, even if those around them are wearing their own masks. Employers have to take special occupational health and safety precautions for their staff if those staff will be within 2 meters of an unmasked person. See our Mandatory Mask FAQ for Businesses & Organizations for more information.
Public health inspectors will follow-up on complaints of a business or organization that is not complying with mandatory mask requirements.
Examples of indoor areas include restaurants, retail stores, churches, libraries, sports facilities, gyms, personal service settings, common areas and waiting rooms, public transportation, and business vehicles.
Masks are also required in common areas of shared dwellings (i.e. apartment buildings, condominiums, etc.), such as in hallways, elevators, common rooms, lobbies, and laundry areas IF people cannot maintain physical distancing at ALL times when in these areas. Residents are strongly encouraged though to wear a mask any time they are outside of their unit.
Children under two should not wear masks. Children over two are expected to wear a mask or face covering in the indoor areas of a business or organization, unless exemptions apply. Within a school or a before/after school program, or on a school bus, masks are required for students in grades 4-12 and encouraged for Kindergarten to grade 3.
Here are some ways to encourage your child to wear a mask:
- Explain why. Use this as a teaching moment to explain why masks are important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Use words they can understand and give them time to ask questions.
- Give choices. Have a couple different masks for your child to choose from. Giving the option between wearing the blue mask or the pink mask helps make your child feel independent and in control, especially in a time when things may be changing frequently.
- Include masks during playtime. Let your kids play with clean cloth masks in a space where they feel comfortable. This can help them become more comfortable with the masks.
- Lead by example. When you are going to an indoor public space, show your child how you wear your mask and talk about why you are wearing it. Be a role model for your child to help normalize their use of masks.
Aside from the exemptions mentioned above, there are a few activity-based circumstances when wearing a mask indoors is not mandatory. These situations include:
- While actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities.
- When consuming food or drink.
- While receiving services to areas of the face that would otherwise be covered by a face covering, when and where this is permitted under the regulations.
- For any emergency or medical purpose.
When employees are working in an area that is not accessible to the public and where a physical distance of 2 metres from every other person can be maintained at ALL times, masks are not required to be worn.
Patrons of an establishment are required to be wear a mask outdoors when in a line-up to enter or when congregating.
It is strongly recommended that masks be worn anytime when physical distancing of 2 metres is a challenge.
Yes, across all of Ontario, masks are currently required to be worn in all indoor spaces of a business or organization, including business vehicles, unless an exemption applies. This is mandated under Ontario Regulation 364/20.
Face masks or coverings must be worn by clients at all times EXCEPT:
- When receiving services on an area of their face that would otherwise be covered by a face covering. (i.e. beard trim, lip wax, facial etc.)
- While consuming food or drink. Food and drink are not to be consumed while receiving services. While eating or drinking, a client must maintain 2 metres of physical distancing from any other client or worker.
- Where an exemption applies (see the list of acceptable exemptions noted in the tab above). NOTE: if an exemption applies, the staff may make efforts to schedule your appointment when there are no other clients or workers present (i.e. outside of regular business hours). If it is not possible to do so, the client must maintain physical distancing from all other workers/clients.
When a worker is providing services to a client who has temporarily removed their face mask (i.e. services to the face otherwise covered) or to a client who is exempt from masking, the worker must wear a medical grade mask and eye protection if physical distancing cannot be maintained or an appropriate barrier is not in place (i.e. plexiglass or other impermeable barrier).
For more information, including cleaning of reusable masks and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s recommendations for masks, see the Masks/Face Covering page.