Masks

Last revised on November 30, 2020.

Learn more on the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law. 

On this page: 

About Masks and Face Coverings

Wearing a mask helps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and helps protect people who are around you. Since some people may have the COVID-19 virus and not know it, everyone should wear a mask when they go into an area where they might come into contact with other people. When you wear a mask, you are helping to protect other people. When other people wear a mask, they are helping to protect you. It is now mandatory to wear a mask in many indoor public spaces, in common areas of multi-unit residential buildings and some outdoor public spaces, as designated.

Wearing a mask does not replace other protective measures including physical distancing, hand washing, covering your cough or sneeze, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, and staying home when you are sick.

There are many types of masks you can wear. A mask can be a cloth (non-medical) mask, a disposable (non-medical) mask, or a medical mask. A face covering can include a bandana, a scarf, or a cloth. A mask should securely cover the nose, mouth and chin, and be in contact with the surrounding face without gapping, and can filter respiratory droplets.

The Public Health Agency of Canada now recommends that Canadians choose masks made of at least three-layers with one of the layers being a filter to add an extra layer of protection against COVID-19.

When buying or making a mask you should look for a mask that has:  

  • At least three layers: 
    • two layers of tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen,on the inside and outside
    • a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric,for the third (middle) layer) 
  • A secure fitting to cover the nose, mouth, and chin. Should be in contact with the face without gapping
  • No seams over the mouth and nose through which air may leak
  • Horizontal pleats to help fit a variety of faces (pleats face downward when wearing) 
  • Re-usable fabric that can be washed after use or when damp and dirty. 

You can continue to wear your well-fitting, two-layer masks, since they work almost as well as three-layer masks, especially to block your respiratory droplets from others. However, as you replace or add to your cloth masks, Ottawa Public Health encourages you to choose three-layer masks.

Disposable (non-medical) masks are single use masks and should be disposed properly in a lined garbage bag after use. 

Medical masks and N95 respirators should be reserved for health care workers in specific high-risk settings and are not recommended for day-to-day activities. It is important preserve supplies of these masks for the health care workers. Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended, because they do not protect others from COVID-19 and do not limit the spread of the virus.

For health care workers looking for information on personal protective equipment, please refer to our section on Infection Prevention and Control. 

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When should I wear a mask?

On Wednesday, August 26, Ottawa City Council amended the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law (By-law No. 2020-186) to further reduce the spread of COVID-19 in our community. The by-law will be in effect immediately upon being passed by Council and will remain in effect until January 2021. At that time, Council may extend the term of the by-law for an additional period of time as necessary to meet public health objectives related to COVID-19, based on public health data and other information that may be available at that time. For more information about the Temporary Mask By-law, such as exemptions and when masks are required, please visit Ottawa.ca.

Current evidence on community mask wearing

Community mask use

There is increasing scientific evidence of the effectiveness of masks to prevent community transmission leading to provincial, national and international public health organizations recommending the wearing of masks when physical distancing cannot be assured.

Evidence shows that mask use supported by social norms and government policies is associated with less mortality from COVID-19.

  • Wearing a mask helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19
  • Benefits are increased when masks are worn properly (securely cover the nose, mouth and chin without gapping)
  • Mask use should be combined with other protective measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and staying home if you are sick

Plastic face shields

Evidence shows that plastic face shields alone are NOT equivalent to wearing a mask.

For more information on the role of masks in prevention of COVID-19, please visit:

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Resources

Mask Up Outdoors - Encourage wearing masks outdoors in business areas.

Wearing a mask helps to reduce the spread of COVID-19.  Residents are encouraged to wear a mask in all scenarios when physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible – both indoors and outdoors.    

Wearing a mask is part of being COVID Wise and is one public health measure to help resume economic and social activities while COVID-19 is still in our community.  

Encouraging the wearing of masks in all settings where people congregate can help build consumer confidence in the health and safety measures that local businesses and organizations are implementing to prevent transmission of COVID-19. 

English French

Got your mask? Wallet? Keys? Coming down to [Insert area or business name]? Don't forget to bring your mask. We encourage wearing masks outdoors to help stay #COVIDwise when visiting local businesses.

Vous avez votre masque? Votre portefeuille? Vos clés? Vous vous rendez [Insérer le nom ou de l’entreprise]? N’oubliez pas votre masque. Nous encourageons le port du masque à l’extérieur pour aider à rester #COVIDavisé lorsque vous visitez des entreprises locales.

Outdoor masking? You got it!  [Insert area or business name] encourages wearing masks outdoors when you can’t keep 2 metre distance. Let’s all be #COVIDwise and wear a mask and maintain physical distance when visiting local businesses.

Masque à l’extérieur? Bonne idée! [Insérer le nom ou de l’entreprise] encourage le port du masque à l’extérieur lorsqu’il est impossible de garder une distance de 2 m. Soyons tous #COVIDAvisés, portons un masque et respectons le 2 m en visitant les entreprises locales.

When posting your own content, please tag Ottawa Public Health and use the hashtag #COVIDWise! You can also direct people to the ottawapublichealth.ca/workplaceCOVID19 for more information.

For more information and to access campaign materials: 

Ottawa Public Health
healthsante@ottawa.ca
613-580-6744 
TTY: 613-580-9656, Toll free: 1-866-426-8885

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COVIDWise!

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) encourages you to go about your daily activities while protecting yourself and others. For more information about how to protect yourself and others during COVID-19, please visit the Be COVID Wise webpage.

Other resources

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Mask Rules and By-Laws

Are masks mandatory in Ottawa?  
Yes, as per the Temporary Mask By-law (No. 2020-186), masks are mandatory in designated locations within the City of Ottawa. For more information about exemptions, when you need to wear a mask, or who enforces the wearing of masks, please visit Ottawa.ca.   
Are there any exemptions for wearing a mask? 

Some people, such as children under the age of 2, are exempt from the Temporary Mask By-law (No. 2020-186). For more information about exemptions for wearing a mask, please visit Ottawa.ca

Who is exempt from wearing a mask?

  • Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver 
  • Individuals with medical conditions including breathing or cognitive difficulties, or a disability, that prevents them from safely wearing a mask
  • Anyone who is unable to put on or remove their mask without help  
  • A person who needs to temporarily remove their mask while in the Enclosed Public Space for the purposes of:
    • receiving services that require the removal of their mask;
    • actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities, including lifeguards working at indoor pools;
    • consuming food or drink; or
    • an emergency or medical purpose.
  • A person who is an employee of the Operator of an Enclosed Public Space and:
    • is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access, or 
    • is within or behind a physical barrier (e.g., Plexiglass).

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 them. We remind anyone removing their mask or face covering to follow safe handling procedures and to keep a distance of 2 metres or 6 feet away from others.

PLEASE NOTE - No person should be:

  • Required to provide proof of exemption or
  • Turned away from indoor public spaces, enclosed common areas or designated outdoor spaces if unable to wear a mask
Why are masks mandatory?
As more businesses and public spaces open and people increase their number of contacts and travel, the risk of infections and outbreaks increases. Therefore, in order to continue to slow or stop the spread of infection while continuing with the progress that has been made in reopening our economy and resuming activities, OPH continues to support the use of face masks in indoor public settings.
How is the Temporary Mask By-law (No. 2020-186) enforced? 
The primary objective is to educate and inform the public and gain voluntary compliance. However, By-Law officers have the authority to enforce the Temporary Mask By-Law if they determine a warning is insufficient or with repeat offenders.

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Wearing a mask

How do I properly wear a mask? 

Masks are not all made the same and may fit differently. Find the mask that best fits your face. To properly wear a mask, follow the instructions below:

  • Immediately wash your hands before putting the mask on, before adjusting it, before taking it off, and after taking it off. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands. Be careful not to touch the part of the mask that covers your face.
  • Make sure your mask allows for easy breathing and completely and comfortably covers the bridge of the nose; covers your mouth; and fits snugly, without gapping under your chin or against the sides of your face.  
  • Make sure your mask is secured to your head with ties or ear loops without the need to adjust frequently. 
  • If your mask has pleats, ensure that the pleats on the outside are facing down when wearing the mask. 
  • If your mask has a metal strip over the nose, gently mould it over the bridge of your nose to ensure a close fit. 
  • Replace the mask as soon as it becomes damp, dirty, damaged or if it no longer fits after washing and drying.  
  • Do not share your mask with others, even within your own household.
  • Do not wear your mask around your neck, on your forehead, under your nose, only on your nose or chin, hanging from one ear, or on your arm. 

Watch: How to Properly Wear a Mask Video

Poster: Safely putting on & taking off your mask

The Public Health Agency of Canada now recommends three-layer masks. What should I do with my two-layer masks?
You can continue to wear your well-fitting, two-layer masks, since they work almost as well as three-layer masks to block your respiratory droplets from others.  However, as you replace or add to your cloth masks, Ottawa Public Health encourages you to choose three-layer masks.
Do I need to shave off my beard for my mask to be effective?

No. The purpose of the mask is to block respiratory droplets. A mask with three layers that fits securely over the chin without gapping (compressing the beard as necessary) will block respiratory droplets quite well.

Remember that wearing a mask does not replace other protective measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing, and not touching your face with unwashed hands. Keeping the beard clean is also important.

Please note these recommendations do not apply for health-care workers, who need to follow the guidelines from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

What should I consider when choosing a mask or face covering?
  • As you replace or add to your cloth masks, look for 3-layered masks with tightly woven cloth on the inside and outside and a non-woven fabric in between. In the meantime, you can continue to use well-fitting 2-layer cloth masks made of tightly woven materials, since they work almost as well to prevent your respiratory droplets from harming others.
  • All masks are not made the same and may fit differently. Find a mask that fits the size of your face, covering your nose and mouth without gapping (large spaces between the mask and your face); can be secured with ties or ear loops; and allows for easy breathing. Your mask should fit snugly around your face; however, it should not hurt your face. Cloth masks should be made of cloth that tolerates frequent washing and drying. 
What kind of mask can I wear with a hijab, niqab or burqa?
  • A mask must be worn underneath these coverings to ensure the best fit against the face. Make sure the mask fully covers your nose and mouth; fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose, and against the sides of your face without gapping; can be secured with ties or ear loops; and allows for easy breathing. 
NOTE: Wearing a single, layered head covering does not replace a cloth mask. Hijabs, niqabs and burkas are not designed to block respiratory droplets and may not be effective.
How do I use a mask while wearing glasses/sunglasses?

You may need to take off your glasses before putting on your mask to ensure the mask is placed properly over your nose. Avoid touching your glasses when wearing your mask. If you need to readjust your glasses, ensure you clean your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately before and after touching them. 

  • It is recommended that you take off your glasses prior to taking off your mask. Only take off your glasses and mask when you can clean your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Your glasses can be washed with soap and water to decrease potential transmission of COVID-19. 
How do I avoid fogging my glasses when wearing a mask?

Foggy eyeglasses can be a challenge in many different situations, including when wearing a mask.

Here are some tips to help prevent your glasses from fogging while wearing a mask:

  • Use a well-fitting mask. Make sure the mask fully covers your nose and mouth and fits snugly under your chin, over the bridge of your nose and against the sides of your face without gapping.
  • Use a mask that has a bendable metal insert, so you can mould it to fit snuggly over the bridge of your nose. This will prevent air from leaking out of the top. 
  • You may need to take off your glasses before putting on your mask to ensure the mask is placed properly over your nose.
For more information about wearing a mask with glasses or sunglasses please read our FAQ:  How do I use a mask while wearing glasses/sunglasses?
Can I wear my mask all day?
cloth or disposable mask can be worn all day as long as it does not become damaged, damp or dirty. Disposable masks are for one time use only and need to be thrown into the garbage after a day’s use.  
When can I take off my mask? 

You can take off your mask if/when: 

  • You are no longer in a space identified under the Mandatory Mask By-Law
  • You have difficulty breathing, or
  • You are not able to tolerate it for health reasons

AND

  • You are safely able to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres or more.

NOTE: If your mask becomes damp or dirty, you should exchange it for a new one if you are still in a situation where you need to wear a mask.

Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask. The used mask can be placed in a lined garbage bin if it is not reusable, in a sealable bag for storage, or directly into the washing machine.

How do I wash, re-use, and discard a cloth mask?

To wash a cloth mask, follow these steps: 

  • After cleaning your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, remove your mask by pulling the ties or ear loops away from your ears. 
  • If your mask has a removable, single-use filter, make sure to remove and throw out the filter before machine or hand-washing your mask. 
  • For machine washing, put the mask directly into the washing machine. You can wash it with other laundry using a hot water cycle.  
  • If you stored the mask in a bag that is washable, you can wash it with your mask; otherwise, throw the bag out. 
  • For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as it is safe, then wash, rinse and dry thoroughly. 
  • Clean your hands again with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling your mask.

NOTE: Disposable masks should not be washed.

To discard disposable, damaged or worn out masks, throw them in a lined garbage bin. Do not leave any discarded masks in places where others can come in contact with them, such as shopping carts, public seats, bus stops or on the ground. 

To re-use a mask , remove it from your face with clean hands 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. Do not leave a mask that has absorbed moisture from your breath in a non-breathable bag or container for more than an hour or so.

NOTE: Disposable masks should not be used for more than one day.

It’s too hot, should I wear a mask?

Wearing a mask is important to help reduce the transmission of COVID-19.

  • It is mandatory to wear masks in all indoor public spaces.
  • When outside, you may not need to wear a mask if physical distancing of two metres (six feet) can be maintained.
  • Although wearing masks may be more uncomfortable in hot temperatures, they still work and are required under the by-law. 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. 
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. Maintain physical distance wherever possible. When outside you may not need to wear a mask if physical distancing is maintained. Discuss with your employer. 
Should I wear a mask when I exercise?

The Mandatory Mask By-law exempts temporary removal of masks for the purpose of engaging in an athletic or fitness activity. This includes water-based activities, including lifeguards who work at indoor pools.

Exercising without a mask is safer outdoors. 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 safer:  

  • Maintain at least a two-metre (six feet) distance from others
  • 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 
  • When in single file, spacing needs to increase with speed of movement 
  • If possible, consider using shared paths and sidewalks when it’s less busy. 
For more information on staying active during COVID-19, visit our webpage
Do I need to wear a mask if I am travelling?
  • All air passengers need to have a mask which covers their mouth, nose, and chin during travel. 
  • People travelling on OC Transpo are required to wear a mask; visit octranspo.com for more details.
  • You must wear a mask when using vehicles for hire, such as taxis, Uber, limousines and company vehicles.
For information on the other modes of travel, please visit: COVID-19 information for travellers (Transport Canada).
How do I safely take off my mask in public if I am worried or feel like I am having trouble breathing?
If you are feeling anxious or are having trouble breathing because of wearing a mask, go outside and remove your mask when you are at least 2 metres away from other people, so you can continue to practice physical distancing. Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask. Remove your mask by touching only the ear loops or ties. When you are breathing comfortably and feeling calm, you may put the mask back on with clean hands. For further guidance, please refer to the OPH video on how to properly wear and remove a mask.
What can I do if my mask feels uncomfortable or tight?
All masks are not made the same and may fit differently. Find a mask that fits the size of your face, covering your nose and mouth without gapping (large spaces between the mask and your face). Your mask should fit snugly around your face; however, it should not hurt your face. Do not wear your mask around your neck, on your forehead, under your nose, only on your nose or chin, hanging from one ear, or on your arm.

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Making, getting or donating a mask

How do I make a cloth mask?

There are different ways to make cloth masks.

Use these resources to make your own cloth mask: 

Where can I get a mask in Ottawa?

United Way Facing Forward Project 

 You can buy cloth masks in bundles of 25 for your workplace, your family or other groups. Proceeds from your purchase will provide masks to those most in need. More information can be found at: unitedwayeo.ca/facing-forward.

Help Getting a Mask

If you live in Ottawa and do not have the means to purchase a mask, call 3-1-1 or email the Human Needs Task Force (HNTF@ottawa.ca) to find out how to get one.

Mask Vendor List

Disclaimer: The following vendors were identified to us via social media by other Ottawa residents. For more information on masks, please view the Question and Answer document on Public Health Ontario’s website titled COVID-19: Non-Medical Masks. Ottawa Public Health does not endorse any particular vendor of cloth masks, nor can we ensure that any vendor is able to maintain stock of these products. We are not liable if there are any issues related to the vendor or the purchased product. The vendors below are listed as a convenience with the intent of promoting the wearing of cloth masks in settings where physical distancing is not possible. If you are aware of other Ottawa-based or Canada-based vendors producing cloth masks that are not currently listed below, please let us know at healthsante@ottawa.ca.

How can I donate masks?

Cloth masks

The City’s Human Needs Task Force is looking for donations of cloth masks for residents who do not have the means to buy or access one. They will be distributed through community partners to people in need throughout Ottawa.

The City is seeking cloth masks:

  • Made with two or three layers of tightly woven but breathable cloth such as cotton, flannel or quilting cotton
  • Without any seams over the mouth and nose through which air may leak
  • Ideally with horizontal pleats to help fit a variety of faces

How to contact us

If you are interested in donating, send your offer of contribution to donations@ottawa.ca(link sends e-mail). Please indicate the item(s), quantity, and whether the donations are commercial-grade and contained in the original packaging and/or are cloth mask donations. 

Thank you in advance for your generosity.

For cloth mask donations, you will receive an email response from the City linking you to one of our community partner agencies and charities who are helping support our community with access to cloth masks. 

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Masks – general 

Are there harms and disadvantages of mask-use by the general public?
Ottawa Public Health continues to monitor any changes that may affect mask-use guidance and issue updates as needed. The agreement in the global scientific community and public health organizations is non-medical face masks worn by the general public can help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask adds to other protective measures including including physical distancing, hand washing, covering your cough or sneeze, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms, and staying home when you are sick. Although there may be certain limitations, current evidence suggests that the benefits of mask use outweigh the disadvantages.
The possible disadvantages of mask use are as follows:
  • Wearing masks for long periods of time may worsen acne or cause skin irritation. It is important to wash your cloth masks with a detergent that is safe for your skin after use to help prevent the potential worsening of pre-existing skin conditions.
  • There is potential for discomfort when wearing a mask for a long period of time. Choose masks made of at least three layers of tightly woven fabric that is breathable. If possible, go outside and take a break from wearing the mask.
  • Difficulty clearly communicating for people who have a hearing impairment and read lips. Please read this FAQ for more information. Remember to be COVIDKind.
  • Improper mask disposal can increase litter in public spaces. Non-medical masks that cannot be washed should be disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin. Discarded masks should not be left where other people may come into contact with them.
  • May increase the risk of self-contamination of eyes, nose, or mouth due to touching or re-adjusting the face mask with unwashed hands.
  • May cause a false sense of security. This could lead to a lower likelihood of practicing preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene. Remember the use of a cloth mask alone is not sufficient to provide an adequate level of protection. Remember to be COVIDWise.

Some people may have difficulty wearing masks such as:

  • young children
  • people living with intellectual or physical challenges
  • individuals with chronic lung disease
  • individuals who have had facial trauma

We encourage family members or caregivers to teach and help those individuals that are struggling to use masks correctly. There are exemptions to the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law (By-law No.2020-186). To learn more visit COVIDWise.

DisadvantagePlease remember
Wearing masks for long periods of time may worsen acne or cause skin irritation. It is important to wash your cloth masks after use with a detergent that is safe for your skin to help prevent the potential worsening of pre-existing skin conditions.
Wearing masks for long periods of time may cause discomfort. Choose masks made of three layers of tightly woven, breathable material (cotton/linen). Cotton or linen masks offer both suitable filtration and comfort.
N95 respirators (medical masks used by healthcare workers) may cause breathing difficulties when used for long periods of time. The prolonged use of cloth masks or disposable masks when properly worn does not cause oxygen deficiency or CO2 intoxication.
Waste management issues increase when masks are disposed of improperly, and cause litter in public spaces. A disposable mask should be disposed of properly in a lined garbage bin after use to lower the risk of contamination and environmental hazards.
May increase the risk of self-contamination due to touching or re-adjusting the mask with unwashed hands. Immediately wash your hands before putting the mask on, before adjusting it, before taking it off and after taking it off. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands. Be COVIDWise.
May cause a false sense of security, leading to a potentially lower likelihood of practicing preventive measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene. Mask wearing cannot guarantee protection from the virus and should not replace frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, practicing physical distancing and staying at home if you are sick.
Young children, people living with intellectual or physical challenges, those with chronic lung disease, or those who have had facial trauma may have difficulty wearing a mask. There are exemptions to the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law (By-law No.2020-186). We encourage family members or caregivers to teach and assist those individuals that are struggling to use masks correctly.
What type of fabric or cloth do I use?

Several organizations have proposed guidelines for mask design including what type of fabric or style to use. This is an area of active research and new evidence continues to emerge. At this time, Ottawa Public Health recommends the following materials and design for masks: 

  • For the outside and inside of the mask, use two layers of tightly woven fabric that is breathable. Cotton is the most widely used fabric. It is better if the thread count is higher. For example, it is recommended that a 120-thread count or higher be used. A combination of fabrics can be used such as pillowcases, cotton sheets and high thread count cotton with silk, chiffon, quilters cotton or flannel. The more comfortable fabric should be on the inside, against the face.  
  • Include a third, non-woven, synthetic material as a middle layer to increase protection against COVID-19 by adding to the mask’s ability to trap small infectious particles. Consider wearing a mask that includes such a layer, for example: 
    • non-woven polypropylene fabric, which can be found as: 
      • a craft fabric 
      • the non-woven fabric that's used to make some reusable shopping bags 
    • a disposable filtering material inserted into a pocket on the mask 
  • Choose fabrics that can withstand multiple washing cycles using hot water. 
  • If possible, use different fabrics or colours for the inside and outside of the mask. This will indicate which side to place over your face. 
  • Masks with pleats fit more face shapes and sizes. 
  • Masks made with a seam down the middle can leak air and may not block droplets as well as other styles of masks. 
A round elastic may fit more comfortably behind the ear than a wide, flat elastic.
Masks and Children

Children under two years of age, or children under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver can be exempt from wearing masks.

Encourage your child to wear a mask by the following:

  • Explain why
    • Kids watch, listen and learn. Explaining the importance of mask wearing in simple terms can help them understand why wearing a mask is important. Allow them to ask questions and express their feelings. You may want to start by reading a bit on how to help children cope with stressful public events to give you some guidance.
  • Give choices
    • Consider letting your little one(s) choose their mask pattern and/or colour. Kids like to feel independent and being given choices. If you are able, include your child in selecting a cloth mask of their choice.
  • Include masks in imaginative play
    • Young children have amazing imaginations. Include a few cloth masks in their playtime and see what they come up with. Having masks present in their environment will let them become more comfortable to the look and feel of masks.
  • Set an example
    • When heading out in public, show your kids how you put on your mask and explain why you are doing it – to protect those around you. Be a role model of the behaviours you are hoping to imprint on your youngest. Kids absorb information so quickly and mirror behaviours they see, especially of their care takers.

For more info visit: 

How do I pick-up a discarded mask?

It is recommended not to handle a mask or face covering belonging to someone else and not to allow other people to handle or touch your mask or face covering.

However, if you choose to pick-up a discarded mask, here are some tips on how to do it safely:

  • Treat all masks as contaminated
  • Pick the mask up by the strap
  • Drop the mask in a lined garbage bin.

Regardless of how you pick up a discarded mask, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately afterwards.

For more information please visit the FAQ on How do I wash, re-use, and discard a cloth mask?
Can I re-use a disposable mask?

A disposable mask can be re-used during a single day if it:

  • Is not damp, damaged or dirty
  • Has been stored appropriately between uses.
At the end of a full day’s wear, however, or at any time that a disposable mask has become damp, dirty or damaged, it should be discarded in a lined garbage bin.
How can you clearly communicate with people who have a hearing impairment and read lips while wearing a mask?

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 adaptable and kind 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. 

Customers and employees can communicate by:

  • using the written word such as text, pen & paper
  • using a phone or on an app such as a voice to text app
  • sharing information through signage and visual tools
There may be situations where someone who is deaf or hard of hearing may require an employee to remove their mask to speak to them. When not wearing a mask remember to physical distance at least two meters (6 feet). Store used mask in reusable plastic bag. Remember to be COVID Kind.
I am worried about wearing a mask, what can I do to decrease my worry?

Sometimes, you may feel anxious about wearing a mask as it can make it feel difficult to breathe. It may take time to get used to the feeling of something covering your mouth and nose. As you become more comfortable wearing a mask, that feeling will most likely decrease over time.

Some suggestions you can try:

  • Prior to wearing a mask, you can try mindful breathing, by bringing your thoughts and focus on your breath. Sit comfortably, with your knees bent and your shoulders, head and neck relaxed and place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move as you breathe. Inhale through your nose, the hand below your rib cage should move out. Tighten your stomach muscles, letting them fall inward as you exhale through your mouth. Practice deep breathing for about 15-30 seconds. This may help with worry related to wearing a mask. For additional tips on building resilience, check out our have THAT talk Building Resilience activity guide.
  • Wear your mask around your home, for short periods of time, to get comfortable wearing it.  
  • Try wearing your mask in stages. Example: Begin by wearing it during a short trip to run an errand or to attend an appointment. This may help you see how long you are able to tolerate the mask.
Avoid trips to the grocery store or to run errands at peak times when you may have to wear your mask for a longer period. Remember, you can go outside and take off your mask when it is safe to do so (maintaining physical distance, 2 meters from others) and take a few deep breaths.

Is using a face covering other than a mask as good as wearing a properly fitted face mask?

A face covering such as a bandana, scarf or cloth would not normally be considered an equal substitute for a properly fitted face mask as it may not provide the same level of defense against respiratory droplets. However, similar to face shields, facing coverings are a “better than nothing” alternative to face masks if a mask is not available. Face coverings may be inferior to face masks at preventing the spread of an infection through droplets and if used, at a minimum should securely fit below the chin and cover the nose and sides of the face without gapping or flapping.

Can my child use a ‘neck gaiter’, scarf or balaclavas in the place of a face mask, on cold days?

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Face Shields

Can a face shield be used as a substitute or a replacement for a 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 some 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 mask.
Is a face shield a good alternative 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 face masks if there is a shortage of non-medical masks or for populations who are not able to properly wear 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 face masks 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.  

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General Questions

Can my business stay open during COVID-19? 

As the situation continues to evolve, the Provincial Government may order some businesses to close. For more information about what can remain open during COVID-19, please visit Ontario.ca

What should I avoid about masks?

Masks should not

  • Contain plastic, vinyl, paper tissues or other non-breathable materials that makes it hard to breathe 
  • Have exhalation valves or vents, which allow virus particles to escape
  • Be shared with others, including those in your household 
  • Impair vision or interfere with tasks 
  • Have a loose fit
  • Should not be worn around your neck, on your forehead, under your nose, only on your nose, on your chin, one ear, on your arm. 

How do I submit a complaint against an open business who has been ordered to close by the Provincial Government?  

Unauthorized open businesses may be reported to the City of Ottawa by calling 3-1-1. 

Do I still need to stay 2-metres away from others if I am wearing a mask or face covering?

Yes. Wearing a mask is not an alternative to physical distancing. Every effort should be made to keep a 2-metre distance even when wearing a mask.

Do masks protect against COVID-19?

The purpose of a mask is to block respiratory droplets travelling in more-or-less a straight line. Three-layered masks (tightly woven cloth inside and outside, and a third middle layer acting as an added line of defense, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric in between) fitting snuggly without gapping will block respiratory droplets reasonably well and help limit the spread of COVID-19. You can continue to use your well-fitting 2-layer cloth masks made of tightly woven materials since they work almost as well, especially to block your own respiratory droplets from harming others in case you had COVID-19. However, as you replace or add to your cloth masks, look for 3-layered masks. 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.

What information do business operators, the public and sighted guides need to consider when in contact with people who are blind or who have low vision?

Measures for physical distancing, including floor markings and directional signage, may not be visible to people who are blind or who have low vision. Staff can help by giving the person verbal directions on where to stand, when a line is moving, or when it is their turn to be served or to board a bus or train.

People who are blind or who have low vision may have a sighted guide or a guide dog to assist them with their daily needs, including travelling to stores and appointments. Guide dogs are not trained in physical distancing, so it is recommended to keep a 2 metres distance from the guide dogs as well as their owners. As always, ignore a guide dog when it is working (wearing a vest or harness).

In addition, as many people who are blind or have low vison must physically touch objects for support or to obtain information, ongoing cleaning and disinfection should be performed by businesses. Specific attention should be given to high touch areas/surfaces such as entrance doors reserved for persons with disabilities, handrails on ramps or staircases, and accessibility buttons for doors.

How do I submit a complaint against an individual who is not wearing a mask?

Individuals not wearing a mask as mandated in the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law (By-law No.2020-186) may be reported to the City of Ottawa by calling 3-1-1. 

What are the gathering limits in Ottawa?

For information about gathering limits in Ottawa, please visit Ottawa.ca or Ontario’s COVID-19 response framework.

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