Mandatory mask requirements

  • Masks are no longer mandatory, except:
    • on municipal and intra-provincial public transit for people 13 and older
    • at AHS operated and contracted facilities and continuing care settings
    • continuous masking must be followed for up to 5 days following mandatory isolation due to COVID infection for vaccinated individuals. For more information, see the isolation page
  • You may be asked to wear masks in some community health settings to keep yourself and others safe, such as pharmacies, physiotherapy clinics or family doctors' offices.

Why use a mask

Wearing a non-medical mask in public is a tool to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Wearing a mask can help reduce your risk of infection and help protect people from being exposed to your germs.

Masks should fit well and be of high quality. People at risk of severe outcomes should wear medical masks when in settings with people outside of their household.

Mask use is not required if:

  • the individual is under 2 years of age
  • the individual qualifies for a medical exception
  • the individual does not meet the current mandatory requirements (for example, children under 13 years old)

Exception for a medical condition

In the specific settings where a mask is required, anyone unable to wear a mask due to an approved medical condition will require a medical exception letter from an authorized health professional.

  • The medical exception letter must come from a nurse practitioner, physician or psychologist.
  • The medical exception letter may be presented when in a public setting if requested by enforcement officials, or retrospectively in court if a ticket is issued.
  • Medical exception letter template (PDF, 244 KB)

How to use a mask

Masks can become contaminated on the outside or when touched with hands.

Do not wear a mask that has been worn by someone else and replace your mask if it is damaged in any way or has gaps or doesn’t fit well.

It’s important that masks are used and disposed of properly. If worn incorrectly, you can accidently spread infection instead of preventing it.

What to do

  • Wash or sanitize your hands:
    • before putting it on
    • before taking it off
    • after taking it off
  • Inspect the mask, holding it by the ties or loops. Discard if damaged or dirty
  • Tighten with ties or ear loops to reduce gaps
  • Keep nose, mouth and chin covered at all times
  • Remove if wet, torn or dirty and dispose in a lined garbage bin
  • Store cloth masks in a sealed bag until it can be washed in hot, soapy water

What not to do

  • Don't touch your face under the mask
  • Don't touch the front of the mask – remove or adjust using the ties or ear loops
  • Don't wear it under your nose or your chin
  • Don't wear a wet, torn or dirty mask
  • Don’t wear the same mask for a long period of time – change when it becomes damp
  • Don’t share with another person

How to care for your cloth mask

  • Reusable masks should be washed daily.
  • Disposable filters should be changed daily or as directed by the manufacturer.
  • Store masks in a sealed and clean storage bag and place in a dry area of your home.
  • Put cloth masks directly into the washing machine or in a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine. Throw out the bag after you’ve used it to store masks.
  • Launder with other items using a hot cycle, and then dry thoroughly.
  • Inspect the mask for damage prior to reuse.

How to make or buy a mask

Making a mask

  • There are many ways to make a cloth mask and filters. Filters add an extra layer of protection by trapping small infectious particles.
    • Choose a fabric or cloth that can withstand frequent cycles through washing and drying machines
    • Use at least 3 layers
      • 2 layers should be tightly woven fabric, such as cotton or linen
      • middle layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene
    • Use different fabrics or colours for each side of the mask. This helps you to know which side faces your mouth and which side faces out.

Buying a mask

  • Make sure cloth masks:
    • have multiple layers of fabric
    • fit securely against your face
    • allow for clear breathing
    • can be laundered

Masks not recommended

  • Face shields

    Face shields do not replace masks or face coverings.

    A face shield is used to protect the eyes of the person wearing it. Using a face shield without a mask won’t protect:

    • you from potentially inhaling infectious respiratory droplets exhaled by others
    • others from your infectious respiratory droplets, as they can escape around the face shield

    If you’re unable to wear a mask or face covering, you may want to wear a face shield. Choose one that extends around the sides of the face and below the chin. Whenever possible:

    • practise good hand hygiene, especially if you touch the face shield
    • consider spacing out from people not in your household
  • Neck gaiters (neck warmers)

    Neck gaiters (also known as neck warmers) aren’t recommended because they:

    • aren’t well secured to the head or ears, and are likely to move or slip out of place
    • are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself

    If a neck gaiter must be used as a face covering:

    • it should be folded to provide at least 3 layers of fabric and should include a filter or filter fabric added between layers
    • lift it away from your face, especially when taking it off
    • wash your hands or use alcohol based hand sanitizer anytime you need to adjust it, especially when putting it on and taking it off
  • Masks with exhalation valves

    Masks with exhalation valves or vents are not recommended. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus. This is because they allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.

Medical masks

  • Medical masks include N95 masks and surgical or procedure masks:
    • N95 masks protect from exposure to biological aerosols that may contain viruses or bacteria. They are generally only required during specific, high-risk medical procedures.
    • Surgical or procedure masks provide a barrier to splashes, droplets, saliva or spit. They are not designed to fit tightly against the face.
  • Medical masks are recommended for:
    • Individuals in high-risk health settings
    • Vaccinated individuals who have completed their isolation period and are still required to wear a mask
    • Individuals caring for or living in a crowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
    • Individuals who may be at risk of more severe disease or severe outcomes from COVID-19 (for example, immunocompromised)
    • Individuals who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation, such as those living in crowded settings.
  • They may also be recommended for use in some workplaces, like salons, where there is prolonged close contact with people.

Gloves

It is not necessary to wear gloves in public. If you choose to wear gloves, remember:

  • wash your hands before you put them on and immediately after taking them off
  • change gloves if:
    • you touch your face – eyes, nose or mouth
    • you cover a cough or sneeze with your hands while wearing gloves
    • they become dirty or torn
  • discard gloves in a lined garbage bin after taking them off

To avoid spreading germs or COVID-19:

  • do not touch your face or mask with your gloves
  • do not touch any personal items (cell phone, bag, credit card) that you might touch again with bare hands
  • do not to try to wash gloves or use hand sanitizer with gloves on

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