Masks

Last revised on August 06, 2020.

NEW: City Council makes masks mandatory in indoor public spaces.

Learn more on the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law. 

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.

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.

About Masks and Face Coverings

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 covers the nose, mouth and chin, and be in contact with the surrounding face without gapping, and can filter respiratory droplets.

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

  • Two or three layers of tightly woven, but breathable, cloth such as cotton, flannel or quilting cotton 
  • 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

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. 

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:

FAQs about the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law

Businesses

New Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law

The City of Ottawa By-law 2020-186 mandates the use of masks in enclosed public spaces. Please read: 

How long will this by-law be in effect?

The by-law will be in effect immediately upon being passed by Council and will remain in effect until the next regularly scheduled meeting of Council, which is currently scheduled for August 26th. 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.

Are masks mandatory in Ontario?

While the province of Ontario has not made masks mandatory, some municipalities now have provisions in place (or soon to be) for mandatory use of masks in indoor public areas. If you’re travelling in the province, please be sure to check the area you are travelling to and bring a mask with you.

Why make masks mandatory now?
As more businesses and public spaces open and people increase their contacts and movement, it increases, the risk of a rapid rise in infections and outbreaks. 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 believes the time has come to mandate the use of face masks in indoor public settings.
What is an enclosed public space?

“Enclosed Public Space” means the interior area of any building or structure that the public has access to, regardless of a fee being charged for entry, in order to receive or to provide goods or services.

Under this By-law, enclosed public spaces include but are not limited to: 

  • restaurants, cafés, cafeterias, banquet halls; 
  • retail establishments and shopping malls; 
  • churches, mosques, synagogues, temples, or other places of worship; 
  • libraries, museums, art galleries, recreational facilities, bingo halls, community centres and halls, cinemas, theatres, concert venues, special event venues, convention centers, or other similar entertainment, cultural, or leisure facilities; 
  • sports facilities, sports clubs, gyms, yoga studios, dance studios, and stadiums; 
  • hotels, motels, or short-term rental premises;
  • premises under the control of a regulated health professional under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 18, as amended;
  • hospitals and independent health facilities, such as lobbies, food courts and cafeterias, and shops;
  • temporary facilities, such as construction trailers and temporary sales offices;
  • municipal facilities, including City Hall (110 Laurier Avenue West), and any community centre, cultural, arts or leisure centre, recreational or sporting facility, parks building, client service centre or indoor parking facility; and
  • other businesses, organizations and places that are permitted to operate in accordance with the Emergency Orders passed by the Province of Ontario pursuant to the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.9, as amended.

Public Transit Property is separately regulated, in Section 5 of the by-law and requires that every person who enters or remains on public transit property must wear a Mask in a manner that covers their mouth, nose, and chin.

Public transit property means the areas accessible to the public of any bus, train, station, platform, shelter, Para Transpo vehicle, and contracted taxicab that are used by the City of Ottawa for the provision of its passenger transportation system.

The following are not considered an enclosed public space: 

  • Spaces subject to provincial and/or local public health guidance:
    • Schools (under the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, as amended);
    • Child care centres and providers (governed by the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, S.O. 2014, c. 11, as amended);
    • Portions of buildings that are being used for the purpose of providing day camps;
    • Offices of professional service providers such as lawyers and accountants where clients receive services in areas not open to the general public.
How is this being enforced and what happens if I do not wear a mask?

As per the by-law every person who enters or remains in an Enclosed Public Space shall wear a mask in a manner that covers their mouth, nose, and chin. The Operator of an Enclosed Public Space shall ensure that every person who is not wearing a mask while in the premises is provided with a verbal reminder to do so as soon as possible following entry, and if applicable (see exemptions below). The primary objective is to educate and inform and gain voluntary compliance. However, a by-law does provide a means to impose penalties through tickets by enforcement officers should such an action be deemed necessary, such as in the case where a warning is insufficient or with repeat offenders.

What is an Operator?

Under this by-law, an Operator means the person who controls, governs, directs, or is responsible for the activity carried on within the Enclosed Public Space and includes the person who is actually in charge at any particular time. 

Are both business staff and customers subject to fines?

The by-law requires that all customers and staff (with some exemptions, see below) wear a mask in enclosed public spaces. Implementation of the by-law will be enacted and will be primarily used as a means to educate people. However, a by-law does provide a means to impose penalties through tickets by enforcement officers should such an action be deemed necessary, such as in the case where a warning is insufficient or with repeat offenders.

Do I need to wear a mask in the office?

The City of Ottawa’s Temporary Mandatory Mask By-Law requires you to wear a mask inside any building or structure that is open to the public (with some exemptions), regardless of whether you have:

  • Paid a fee to enter the space, or
  • Entered the space from a private space within the same building.

Because office buildings may have both public and private spaces, different rules apply:

Private spaces: Masks are not required in a building’s private spaces, such as private offices and board rooms used by employees only. This means you may remove your mask anytime you enter those spaces. Ottawa Public Health (OPH) recommends that all persons always maintain a 2-metre (6-feet) physical distance, practice frequent hand washing, and stay home if sick.

Public spaces: Masks are required in all enclosed spaces used by public, including office building’s lobby and elevators. This means you must wear a mask anytime you enter enclosed public spaces.

Certain people or places like schools, childcare centres and day camps; and offices of professional service providers such as lawyers and accountants where clients receive services may be exempt from the bylaw. Please see our FAQ for further details.

Over the course of a regular workday, you may need to put on and take off your mask multiple times. If this is the case, please be careful and remember to:

For more information please read the:

Exemptions

Who is exempt from wearing a mask?

Masks should not be placed on:

  • 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 (6 feet) away from others.

PLEASE NOTE - No person should be:

  • Required to provide proof of exemption or
  • Turned away from indoor public spaces if unable to wear a mask
Are religious officiants exempt from wearing a mask when leading a ceremony?
The officiant 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 not engage 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.

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.  

General Questions

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.

Can I remove my mask or face covering if physical distancing is not a concern in the establishment or enclosed public space I am visiting?

Members of the public are permitted the temporary removal of a mask where necessary for the purpose 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

Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing or wearing your mask or face covering. Remove and store the mask properly.

Does this by-law mean that masks have to be worn in my apartment building or condominium?

Masks are required when you are in enclosed public spaces. The by-law does not include residential buildings or condominiums as they are not considered public spaces accessible by the general public. Residential building owners or condo boards may choose to implement their own policies within their buildings. 

OPH strongly encourages residential building management, owners, landlords and condominium corporations to adopt a policy requiring that all individuals entering or remaining in their common spaces and shared amenities (including but not limited to: entrances, lobbies, laundry rooms, elevators, gyms) wear a mask or face-covering unless they are unable to due to the exemptions listed in the City of Ottawa Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law.

Do masks protect against COVID-19?

The purpose of a mask is to “filter” respiratory droplets (blocking droplets travelling in more-or-less a straight line). A mask with two or more layers fitting snuggly without gapping will block respiratory droplets reasonably well and help to limit the spread of COVID-19.

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.

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. 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.

    • Adult and child sizes available
How can I donate masks?

The City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force is seeking donations of non-medical masks to distribute to vulnerable residents. These donated masks will be distributed throughout the City to Community Partners who will connect directly with those in their neighbourhoods who have no other means of accessing a cloth mask. 

How to donate

If you are interested in donating, call 3-1-1 or send your offer of contribution to donations@ottawa.ca. Please indicate the item(s), quantity, condition and whether the donations are commercial-grade and contained in the original packaging. You must follow physical distancing when dropping off donations.

The City is asking for cloth masks 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 
How do I properly wear a mask?

Masks are not all made the same and may fit differently. Find a right mask that fits your face and learn how to wear your mask.

  • 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. 
  • Make sure your mask allows for easy breathing and completely and comfortably covers the bridge of the nose, covers your mouth, fits snugly under your chin and 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. 
  • 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 has shrunk after washing and drying.  
  • Do not share your mask with others, even within your own household. 

Watch: How to Properly Wear a Mask Video

Poster: Safely putting on & taking off your mask

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 filtering capacity. 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.  

Do I need to shave off my beard for my mask to be effective?

No,  because the purpose of the mask is to “filter” respiratory droplets (blocking droplets travelling in more-or-less a straight line) and a mask with two or more layers fitting 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.  

When should I take off my mask?

Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask or anytime you wish to adjust your mask. You should take off your mask when: 

  • You are no longer in an indoor public area.
  • You are safely able to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres or more.
  • The mask can be placed in a lined garbage bin if it is not reusable, in a plastic bag for a short time while transporting it home, or directly into the washing machine.
  • If your mask becomes damp or dirty and you can exchange it for a new one if you are still in a situation where you need to wear a mask.
  • If there is difficulty in breathing or you are not able to tolerate for health reasons.
How do I wash, re-use, and discard a cloth mask?

Wearing a mask can increase your risk of infection if you touch your face more frequently to adjust it or if you do not wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off. All parts of masks can become contaminated by breathing or when touched by your hands.

When taking off to reuse or discard a mask, follow these steps: 

  • After washing 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. If you need to store it, store in a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and throw out the bag after you have used it. If the bag is washable you can wash it with your mask. Wash your hands again with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after handling your mask. 
  • You can wash the masks with other laundry using a hot water cycle.  
  • For hand washing, use laundry detergent and water as hot as it is safe, wash, rinse and then dry thoroughly. 
  • When discarding damaged or worn out masks, drop 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. 
  • Cloth masks can be re-used throughout the day if not soiled and undamaged. With clean hands, remove the mask from your face 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 the same day.
  • Disposable masks should not be washed, reused or recycled.

More FAQs about masks

Who should wear a mask?

If you are sick, you should stay home and get tested

If you are well and going out:

  • It is mandatory to wear a mask in many indoor public spaces.
  • In outdoor spaces, it is necessary to wear a mask when it is difficult to maintain a physical distance of more than 2 metres (six feet).
  • Effective June 15, you must wear a mask or face covering if you are using OC Transpo

If you are caring for someone who is sick and has or may have COVID-19: 

  • Wear a mask or face covering and maintain physical distancing (staying at least two metres or six feet apart) whenever possible if the person you are caring for has a fever, is coughing or is sneezing. If able to, the person you are taking care of should also wear a mask or face covering to prevent spreading the virus to others. 
What should I avoid about masks?

Masks should not

  • Contain plastic, paper tissues or other non-breathable materials 
  • Be shared with others, including those in your household 
  • Impair vision or interfere with tasks 
  • Have a loose fit

What should I consider when choosing to wear a mask or face covering?

  • They should fit snugly but comfortably over the chin, nose and mouth and against the sides of your face, be secured with ties or ear loops and allow for easy breathing. 
  • They should be made of cloth that tolerates frequent washing and drying. Cloth masks should be discarded if the material is frayed or has holes.
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 will likely emerge in the coming months. At this time, Ottawa Public Health recommends the following materials and design for masks: 

  • Use two or three 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. 
  • Some organizations suggest using a third non-absorbent layer of fabric. A third layer of fabric may make the mask slightly better at keeping droplets (which may contain COVID-19) in but also could make a mask less breathable and harder to wear for longer periods of time. 
  • 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.
How do I make a cloth mask?

There are different ways to make cloth masks.

Use these resources to make your own cloth mask: 

What kind of mask can I wear with a hijab, niqab or burqa?

Wearing a single layered head covering does not replace a cloth mask. Hijab, niqab and burkas may not be designed to filter respiratory droplets and they may not be effective.  The mask may have to be worn underneath these coverings to ensure the best fit against the face. 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. 

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 wash 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 safely taking off your mask. Only take off your glasses and mask when you can wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Your glasses can be washed with soap and water to decrease potential spread of COVID-19. 

How do I avoid fogging up 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 your mask securely covers your mouth, nose and chin and is in contact with the surrounding face without gapping.
  • Use a mask that has a bendable metal insert, so you can mold 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.
  • Avoid touching your glasses when wearing your mask. If you need to readjust them, be sure to practice good hand hygiene.

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?
  • A cloth mask can be worn all day as long as it does not become damaged, damp or dirty. Do not share your mask with others. Remove your mask with clean hands when you are safely able to do so and wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Do not place your used mask into your pocket. To store, 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 the same day. 
  • Disposable masks should be removed and replaced if soiled or damaged and are for one time use only and need to be thrown into the garbage after use.  
How should I store my mask when I am not wearing it?

You may reuse a cloth mask that is not damaged, damp or dirty.

Here are the steps to take to safely store your mask between uses:

  • Wait until you are in a private or open space to remove your mask
  • Fold the mask so that the outer surface faces inwards
  • Place the mask in a clean bag—not your pocket
  • Practice good hand hygiene each time you handle your mask.

 Note that cloth masks are considered contaminated after use and need to be washed before reuse. Paper or plastic bags should be discarded in a lined garbage bin.

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

A disposable mask can be re-used, so long as it is not damp, damaged or dirty and has been stored between uses as described above. At the end of a full day’s wear, however, or if the disposable mask has become damp, dirty or damaged, it is best to throw out the mask. Discard used masks in a garbage bin lined with a plastic bag. After breaks such as mealtimes, you can reuse a disposable mask if it is still appearing clean, dry, undamaged and you have stored it appropriately between uses. You can temporarily store disposable masks by using the same method as cloth masks.

It’s too hot, should I wear a mask?

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

  • It is now mandatory to wear masks in many 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 become more uncomfortable in hot temperatures, they will still work and are required under the by-law for all indoor public areas. 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 as when outside you may not need to wear a mask if physical distancing is maintained.  Discuss with your employer. 

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.
Should I wear a mask when I exercise?

Wearing a mask when exercising may not be comfortable because of higher heart and breathing rates.

The 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 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 

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 now need to have a mask to cover their mouth, nose, and chin during travel. 
  • People travelling on OC Transpo are required to wear a cloth mask: visit octranspo.com for more details.
  • For information on the other modes of travel, please visit: COVID-19 information for travellers (Transport Canada).

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. 
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, try to 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 or anytime you wish to adjust 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. Try to 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, should not hurt your face.   

For more information on mental health services, supports and resources visit our website at OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVIDMentalHealth.

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