COVID-19 Vaccines

Vaccines are now here in the fight against COVID-19. Please watch and read further for more information.

Video Resources
  • COVID-19 Vaccines – A Dose of Protection – Get the facts on the vacs from Health Protection Manager Marianne Rock as she discusses why COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective, and worth getting.
  • ‘Blown Away’ By COVID-19 Vaccines – Acting local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Ian Gemmill explain how COVID-19 vaccines will be rolled, why it’s being done this way, and why getting vaccinated is the key to a return to normal.

On This Page:

About COVID-19 Vaccine
  • Currently, two COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in Canada. One is the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while the other is a vaccine developed by Moderna.
  • Both of these approved vaccines are safe, reliable and highly effective against COVID-19.
  • Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine require two doses given a few weeks apart to provide full protection against COVID-19:
    • Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is 95% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms.
    • Two doses of the Moderna vaccine is 94% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms.
    • After completing the two-doses, it may take another one to two weeks to achieve maximum protection against COVID-19.
  • In Ontario, COVID-19 vaccines will be free to everyone. You are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated for COVID-19 when it is available. COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. When a large percentage of people become vaccinated against COVID-19, it stops the spread of the virus. That benefits everyone and means a quicker return to normal.
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When Will COVID-19 Vaccines Be Available Here
  • The first doses of COVID-19 vaccine have arrived locally and are currently being given to residents in local long-term care homes. Further vaccination efforts will continue, as more vaccines are delivered to the area.
  • The Health Unit continues to work closely with the Province, local hospitals, health care partners, and long-term care and retirement homes to prepare for a safe and orderly rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine in this region.
  • A mass vaccination plan is ready to go once supplies of the COVID-19 vaccine are available. As more supplies arrive, more people will be able to get vaccinated.
  • There is no waiting list for the first dose of COVID-19 vaccines. Please do not call your health care provider or the Health Unit to be added to the list.
  • When COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available to the public later in 2021, information about how and where to be vaccinated will be shared. Please check back often for updates.
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Who Gets the Vaccine First – A Phased Approach

Due to limited supplies of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Ontario, the Province has outlined a three-phase approach to provide vaccines to people.

  • In Phase One (currently underway), immediate priority for vaccines will be:
    • Residents/staff/essential caregivers of long-term care homes, high-risk retirement homes and First Nations elder care homes.
    • Alternate level of care patients in hospitals who have a confirmed admission to a long-term care home, retirement home or other congregate care home for seniors
    • Health care workers identified as highest priority.
    • Indigenous adults in northern remote and higher-risk communities (on-reserve and urban)
  • Also being offered the vaccine in Phase One (currently underway) are next priority groups, which include:
    • Adults 80 years of age and older
    • Staff, residents and caregivers in retirement homes and other congregate care settings for seniors (such as assisted living)
    • All Indigenous adults
    • Adult recipients of chronic home care.
  • In Phase Two (expected to be April to August 2021), vaccines will be available to more people as the supply increases. During Phase Two in Northumberland County, Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes, the following groups will be able to receive the COVID-19 vaccine:
    • Older adults, beginning with those 79 years of age and decreasing in five-year increments over the course of the vaccine rollout.
    • People who live and work in high-risk congregate settings (like shelters, community living).
    • Frontline essential workers (including first responders, teachers and other education staff and the food processing industry)
    • Individuals with high-risk chronic conditions and their caregivers.
    • Other populations and communities facing barriers related to the determinants of health across Ontario who are at greater COVID-19 risk.
  • In Phase Three (August 2021 and beyond), COVID-19 vaccines will be widely available for anyone who wants to receive one.
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Vaccine Approval
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How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Vaccines have saved millions of lives over the past century. COVID-19 vaccines will work similarly to protect millions more. Here’s how:

  • COVID vaccines work with your body’s natural defenses to build protection against coronavirus.
  • It does this by telling your body to make spike proteins.
  • Spike proteins are unique to the virus that causes COVID-1.9
  • Your immune system responds to the spike proteins by making antibodies that can protect you against COVID-19.

The result is that you build up immunity to the virus, allowing your body to fight off COVID-19 more easily.

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Facts on COVID-19 Vaccine
  • COVID-19 vaccine does not contain the coronavirus and cannot give you COVID-19. Instead, the vaccine offers a dose of protection!
  • Like other vaccines, it may take several days for your body to build full immunity against COVID-19.
  • This means if you come in contact with the virus just before or after you complete the vaccine series, you could still develop COVID-19. That makes it important to continue taking COVID-19 precautions until you are fully protected.
  • The Ontario Medical Association also offers additional facts about COVID-19 vaccine.
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Possible Side-Effects
  • Serious adverse reactions to vaccines are rare. They happen less than one time in a million (Source: Ontario Ministry of Health).
  • If you get any vaccine, minor side-effects may occur. These are usually mild and clear up within a few days. Some common side-effects include: pain at the site of injection (even redness and swelling), body chills, feeling tired or feeling feverish.
  • Vaccines are constantly monitored for potential reactions and safety measures are put in place if needed. You can be assured COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective!
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What You Can Do
  • Watch for more information from the Health Unit about when the COVID-19 vaccine is available in your community and when you can go to get vaccinated.
  • Until you are vaccinated, continue your efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19:
    • Stay home if sick.
    • Only leave home for essentials like groceries and medical matters.
    • Avoid all non-essential travel.
    • Wear a mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin when inside public places.
    • Practise physical distancing by staying 2 metres (6 feet) apart from anyone outside your immediate household
    • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
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Additional Resources

Learn more on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, development and safety:

Use of Non-Medical Masks and Face Coverings Within Indoor Public Spaces

The Ontario government is now mandating the use of non-medical masks/face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces. Limited exemptions are in place, including for age, medical reasons, and special accommodations.

The provincial masking requirement is made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (specifically Ontario Regulation 263/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 2 and Ontario Regulation 364/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 3). The aim of the directive is to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For more details, please read the the following FAQs and resources. You can also contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 or info@hkpr.on.ca for additional direction.

If you have additional questions about mask use at your business or workplace, refer to your COVID-19 Safety Plan, consult with your Joint Health and Safety Committee, or contact the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008.


Who is Affected?

If you own, operate or are responsible for a business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating under Stage 3 of the provincial Framework for reopening, you must have rules in place to inform people about the need to wear a mask or face covering before entering your establishment. Certain exemptions do apply on the use of masks in these indoor settings.

Most indoor settings are covered under the rules, including businesses, stores, malls/plazas, restaurants, churches/places of worship, public libraries, real estate open houses, personal care services (relating to the hair or body), food courts, fitting rooms, driving instruction services, sports and recreation facilities (like gyms, yoga/dance studios, and fitness facilities), children’s camps, movie theatres, performing arts centres, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, and racing venues, cultural centres (museums, art galleries, etc.).

Long-term care homes and retirement homes also require masks to be worn by staff and essential visitors.

Are there places where masks/face coverings do not need to be worn?

The Ontario government is now mandating face coverings be worn across the province. This includes:

  • Public spaces (for example, inside stores, event spaces, entertainment facilities and common areas in hotels).
  • Workplaces, even those that are not open to the public.
  • Vehicles that operate as part of a business or organization, including taxis and rideshares.

According to the Province, establishments in which face coverings are not required are: correctional facilities; university dorms or other similar dwellings (except when you are in common areas and can’t maintain 2 metres from others); residences for people with developmental disabilities; and instances in which people are performing/rehearsing for a film/TV production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

Masks can also be temporarily removed for:

  • Receiving services that require you to take it off (for example, going to the dentist).
  • Exercising in a gym/fitness centre
  • Eating or drinking at a restaurant
  • Health and safety purposes (as necessary)

Are churches/places of worship covered under the masking rules?

Yes, mask use is required in churches or places of worship. Attendees to religious services/rites or ceremonies must wear masks at all times, while maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others. For additional directions on mask use and COVID-19 prevention measures in places of worship, click here.

Why are masks and face coverings required inside public places?

Wearing non-medical masks or face coverings (2+ layers are recommended) inside public places is another way to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true as more businesses and public spaces reopen. With new, more contagious COVID-19 variants now circulating locally and in Ontario, the risk of illness is still there and precautions must continue to be taken.

Evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but may help protect others. Along with physical distancing, frequent handwashing, cough/sneeze hygiene, and staying home when ill, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering inside public places is another way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

What areas of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are subject to the non-medical mask and face covering requirements?

If staff/workers are performing tasks indoors that require them to be less than 2 metres from an unmasked or improperly masked individual without a barrier (e.g. Plexiglass, partition, wall), masks and other appropriate Personal Protective Equipment must be worn to ensure proper protection for eyes, nose and mouth.

Customers and patrons entering a business must also wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, unless exempted (see next question/answer for details). Masks must also be worn if people line up inside or outside the business (while maintaining physical distancing), as well as when accessing personal care services (like hair salons, barbershops, and tanning salons).

Are there times when you do not have to wear a face covering?

The Ontario government is now mandating the use of face coverings across the province. Below are the only situations when you do not need to wear a face covering:

  • Children do not have to wear a face covering indoors if they are younger than two years old.
  • If you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a face covering, are unable to put on or remove a face covering without someone else’s help, and are receiving accommodations according to the Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).
  • In correctional facilities or youth detention centres.
  • In university dorms or other similar dwellings, except when you are in a common area and can’t maintain 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
  • If you are performing or rehearsing for a film/television production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

You can also temporarily take off your face covering to:

  • Receive services that require you to take it off (e.g. at the dentist, getting a facial)
  • Take part in an athletic or fitness activity
  • To eat or drink
  • As necessary for health and safety purposes.

What happens if patrons don’t wear a mask?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating during Stage 3 must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure people are informed of the requirement to wear a mask or face covering that covers their nose, mouth and chin when entering or remaining in an indoor public space.

A COVID-19 Safety Plan (provincial template or HKPR sample resource) describes how a business or establishment will keep employees, volunteers, patrons, and other people safe, including the wearing of masks/face coverings.

People in an enclosed public space who remove their mask for extended periods of time, will receive a verbal reminder of the requirement to wear a mask under these instructions. Failure to comply with the masking requirements could lead to a fine.

Do I have to disclose my medical condition if I don’t wear a mask?

No one is required to disclose a medical condition or reason why they are exempt from wearing a mask. Medical documentation does not need to be provided either. All a person has to say is that: “I am not able to wear a mask.”

People who are responsible for a place of business/facility that is indoors and open to the public should respect this answer. For privacy reasons, owners/operators are not allowed to ask specifics on why someone cannot wear a mask. All that owners/operators are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

It is recognized there are a variety of reasons why a person cannot wear a mask and people are asked to continue to be kind to each other and support everyone in the community as we work together to stop the spread of the virus. 

The requirement to have people wear masks within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is not meant to stigmatize people who are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons or their age.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. To protect their staff and customers, some businesses may offer their service in another way (such as through curbside pickup, delivery services) without allowing someone to enter without a mask.

To avoid potential problems, call ahead to a business to see what its policy is regarding masking and to see if curbside pickup or delivery service options are available.

Why can’t mask use be a voluntary decision?

Although there has been information and messaging shared on the public health benefits of wearing a mask when physical distancing is a challenge, many people will still not wear a mask. Many of the people who are now testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic and do not realize they are ill. If they do not wear a mask in public, they can easily spread the virus to other, more vulnerable people within the community.

The requirement to wear a mask within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is meant to serve as a reminder to everyone who can wear a mask, that they should be doing so to help protect others.

How is this being enforced?

Every owner/operator of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public will have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that outlines the requirements for customers/patrons to wear a mask or face covering when entering the premises.

Employees and operators will provide a verbal reminder to any customer entering the premises without a mask that the customer should be wearing a mask as a result of this directive.

Implementation of this will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

Public Health Inspectors from the HKPR District Health Unit, as well as municipal bylaw and local police officers, will be involved in providing additional education and enforcement to operators of commercial establishments.

What are the fines?

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those who do not comply with the above noted requirements may be liable for a fine of: $750 – $1,000 for an individual owner/operator of a commercial establishment, to a maximum of $100,000 or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

Are both businesses and customers subject to fines?

As noted above, implementation of this restriction will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces.

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those businesses that do not comply with the instructions may be liable for a fine of $750 to $1,000 for an individual, to a maximum of $100,000, or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

What would be the best way for store owners to address the issue if patrons don’t have or refuse to wear a mask for both reasons that are legitimate and those that are not?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

For privacy reasons, if you are someone who is responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public, you cannot ask patrons the reasons they cannot wear a mask. All you are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

Do restaurant servers need to wear masks?

Servers must wear a mask and eye protection, as part of the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Is it mandatory that employees working in retail stores are required to wear masks?

Yes. The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Are staff and customers still required to wear a mask if there is a plexiglass barrier between them?

Yes, a barrier is not sufficient to stop the droplet transmission of the virus. When both parties are wearing a mask, it protects both the staff and the customer from the potential spread of the virus.

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 to temporarily remove a mask for the following reasons:

  • Receiving services (including eating or drinking when dine-in services are allowed), 

OR

  • While actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities.

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

What should store owners and staff do if a customer does not/cannot wear a mask?

Owners/operators and staff of commercial establishments are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

I work in a hot commercial kitchen/warehouse. Do I need to wear a mask?

If you work in a commercial establishment, a mask should be worn when interacting with the members of the public inside. You may want to contact your Ministry of Labour representative to clarify if mask and/or Personal Protective Equipment is required in your situation to avoid a potential fine.

Who do I call if I want to report a business not requiring customers to wear a mask?

To report a non-complying business, or for more information on the Health Unit’s instructions to places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public to require the use of masks by patrons, call the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020.

Can a person be refused service for not wearing a non-medical mask or face covering?

The implementation should be enforced in “good faith” and any person not wearing a mask will receive a verbal reminder from the staff of the establishment.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

How do I choose a non-medical mask or face covering?

In choosing a non-medical mask, ensure it is:

  • Made of 2+ layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • Well-fitted with ear loops or ties
  • A comfortable fit against your face and allows you to breathe easily without having to adjust it
  • Large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • Durable to allow you to frequently wash and dry it without losing its shape

Other options for non-medical masks include wearing a bandana or scarf, or making one out of a T-shirt or a bandana. The Public Health Agency of Canada also offers instructions on how to make a homemade face coverings.

Are face shields allowed?

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. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend – if possible – to wear it in addition to a properly fitted cloth masks.

If I can’t wear a mask, can I wear a face shield?

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 non-medical 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. 

What is the proper way to use a non-medical mask or face covering?

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
  • Do not share cloth masks with others
  • Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
  • Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside.
  • Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
  • Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
  • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
  • Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
  • Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.

Watch this How to Use a Cloth Mask Video for additional tips. 

What is double masking? Is it now recommended given the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants of concern circulating in Ontario?

Double-masking means wearing one face mask on top of another. An example is wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

In early February 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. This has resulted in new CDC guidelines for Americans on improving mask fit, which includes adding layers of material to a mask (either by using cloth masks with multiple layers of fabric, or by wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask).

This change comes as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are circulating. So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not changed its recommendations on mask use in Canada. In November 2020, PHAC did update its recommendations to say non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers, with the middle layer being a filter-type fabric.

Currently in Ontario, you must wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin inside any business or public place. Properly wearing a mask inside public spaces and maintaining 2 metres physical distance from others are important measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but can help protect others.

While there is no instruction to ‘double mask’ in Canada, consider doing so if it makes you feel more comfortable (taking care to ensure it does not make breathing difficult). Add an extra layer to your cloth mask or try wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

The best advice to prevent COVID-19 remains staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with other people you do not live with.


Additional Resources

Posters For Businesses/Commercial Establishments

How to Use/Wear a (3-Layer) Cloth Mask Video – HKPR District Health Unit Video

Mask Use during COVID-19

On This Page:

Wearing face coverings is an important way to reduce the risk of COVID-19. That’s why it’s important to know when and how to properly wear a mask.

NOTE: The Ontario government is mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions. For complete details, click here.

The Province is also now recommending that a mask or face covering be worn outdoors when you can’t maintain 2 metres physical distance from others outside your household. 

Medical Masks (like surgical and N-95):
close up White protective hygenic mask isolated backgrounds for doctors and patient from virus biological infection and PM2.5 dust, pandemic news

These must be kept for health care providers and for those providing direct care for someone with COVID-19.

If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and need to seek medical care, wear a mask. Your health provider may also recommend you wear a mask while you’re seeking or waiting for care. The mask acts as a barrier and helps stop the tiny droplets from spreading around you when you cough or sneeze.

Masks MUST be put on, taken off and thrown out properly. If you need to wear a mask, be sure to clean your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. When wearing a mask, follow this Public Health Ontario fact sheet  on how to properly wear and throw away one.


Homemade (Cloth) Masks:

The Ontario government is now mandating that masks have to be worn in most public places across the province.

When worn properly, non-medical masks can help to cover your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or landing on common surfaces. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advises that putting on a homemade mask can help protect others around you if you’re ill with COVID-19 and do not yet know it. PHAC is also recommending that masks or face coverings should be made of at least three layers, including:

  • Two layers made of tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton or linen
  • The third (middle) layer made of a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric.

NOTE: People shouldn’t throw away their two-layer non-medical masks. If making or buying more masks, consider the three-layer mask for improved protection.

Wearing a face mask in public places, together with washing your hands with soap and water, staying home and maintaining physical distancing, are all important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Homemade masks or facial coverings should not be worn/put on by:

  • Children under age 2 years, or a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally
  • A person who is unable to remove a mask without assistance
  • Anyone who cannot safely wear a non-medical mask or face covering due to medical reasons such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information

Click here for specific information on mask use regulations currently in effect in Ontario.


Double Masking

Double-masking means wearing one face mask on top of another. An example is wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

In early February 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. This has resulted in new CDC guidelines for Americans on improving mask fit, which includes adding layers of material to a mask (either by using cloth masks with multiple layers of fabric, or by wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask).

This change comes as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are circulating. So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not changed its recommendations on mask use in Canada. In November 2020, PHAC did update its recommendations to say non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers, with the middle layer being a filter-type fabric.

Currently in Ontario, you must wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin inside any business or public place. Properly wearing a mask inside public spaces and maintaining 2 metres physical distance from others are important measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but can help protect others.

While there is no instruction to ‘double mask’ in Canada, consider doing so if it makes you feel more comfortable (taking care to ensure it does not make breathing difficult). Add an extra layer to your cloth mask or try wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

The best advice to prevent COVID-19 remains staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with other people you do not live with.


How to Properly Use a Homemade Mask/Face Covering:  
  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
  • Do not share cloth masks with others
  • Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
  • Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside. 
  • Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
  • Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
    • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
    • Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
  • Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.
  • For ideas on making your own homemade cloth masks, visit this Public Health Agency of Canada masks resource page.

Summary Do’s and Don’ts for Using Homemade Masks/Face Coverings

Do:

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting on and immediately after taking off a face covering or face mask
  • Practise good hand hygiene while you are wearing the face covering
  • Make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth
  • Avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
  • Avoid touching the covering while using it
  • Change the face covering or face mask when it gets slightly wet or dirty

Do Not:

  • Share face coverings or face masks with others
  • Place on children under the age of two years or on anyone unable to remove without assistance or who has trouble breathing
  • Use plastic or other non-breathable materials as a face covering or face mask

Travellers and COVID-19


Travelling Abroad

Enhanced Travel Restrictions

Due to COVID-19 and the risk of new variants, Canadians are strongly advised to cancel or postpone any non-essential travel plans outside of the country until further notice. They should also avoid all travel on cruise ships for the time-being.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: On Feb. 12, the Federal Government has updated its sweeping new restrictions on international travel to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including variants of it. It includes COVID-19 testing and a 14-day quarantine period. These measures will impact people arriving in Canada as follows:

  • Arriving in Canada by Land: Starting Feb. 15, anyone crossing the land border for non-essential reasons will have to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within the last three days. Essential workers such as truckers and emergency service providers, as well as cross border communities, will be exempt from this requirement. There will also be 16 specific points of entry where testing will be run.
  • Arriving in Canada by Air: Starting Feb. 22, all air travelers (with some exceptions) will have to undergo a mandatory COVID-19 test at their expense at the airport, followed by quarantine in a government-approved hotel for up to three days while awaiting their test results. All international flights can now only arrive at one of four Canadian airports: Toronto, Montreal, Calgary or Vancouver.

Read this Federal Government Backgrounder for Full Details on these Restrictions

The federal mandatory isolation/quarantine measure was put in place by Canadian government through an Emergency Order under the Quarantine Act. These measures apply to all travelers arriving in Canada and are aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. The only exceptions are essential workers, including those who ensure the continue flow of goods and essential services across the border. Violating any instructions provided to you when you entered Canada could lead to up to 6 months in prison and/or $750,000 in fines.

Mandatory Quarantine

If at any time over your 14-day quarantine, you develop COVID-19 symptoms, do the following:

  • Isolate yourself from others
  • Immediately call a health care professional or public health authority and:
    • describe your symptoms and travel history
    • follow their instructions carefully

You must begin isolating for an additional 14 days from the date of your positive test result or onset of symptoms.

Mandatory Isolation

Follow any additional directions provided you by public health staff. After your mandatory quarantine/isolation period ends, continue following important public health measures like: staying home if sick, practising physical distancing, wearing masks or face coverings, and frequently washing hands with soap and water.

Additional Ontario Government Travel Measure

As of Feb. 1, 2021, the Ontario government is also making it mandatory that all international travelers arriving at Pearson Airport in Toronto get tested for COVID-19. Ontario is also exploring additional testing measures at Pearson International Airport and land border crossings in the coming weeks.


Travelling in Canada

Travelling Between Provinces

During the pandemic, some parts of Canada have placed limits on travel between provinces. This includes the requirement that some people arriving must self-isolate for 14 days. If you are planning an out-of-province trip, check first with the destination you are headed to see if any travel restrictions are in place that could affect your trip.


Isolating During COVID-19

In certain cases, you MUST isolate or quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This protects you and others from illness, especially those more at risk from COVID-19 such as seniors and people with chronic medical conditions. With new COVID-19 variants of concern that can be spread easier now being detected in Ontario, it’s even more important to isolate or quarantine when directed (click here for links to FAQs on variants).

Please Note: On December 12, 2020, the Acting local Medical Officer of Health issued the following updated Class Order under Section 22 (5.01.1) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. This order replaces an original order pertaining to self-isolating due to COVID-19. The updated Class Order is designed to protect the health of local residents by reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

On this page

When to Isolate

Public health staff will give you further direction on when and how long to isolate or quarantine, depending on your circumstances. In general, you must isolate:

  1. If you are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  2. If you have the signs and symptoms of COVID-19, have been tested and are awaiting the results.
  3. If you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms (even mild ones).
  4. You must quarantine if you are identified as a close contact of someone who has COVID-19, is awaiting test results or is believed to have symptoms.
  5. Parents and caregivers of anyone under age 16 who tests positive for COVID-19, is awaiting test results or is believed to have symptoms may also need to isolate.

NOTE: The federal government also has mandatory quarantine and isolation orders in effect for travelers to and from Canada. Please click here for full details.


How Long to Isolate

You must remain in isolation or quarantine as directed by public health staff.

In general, you must isolate for:

  • 10 days if diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19 illness and symptoms
  • 20 days if you suffered more severe COVID-19 illness (e.g. requiring Intensive Care Unit level support) or are immune-compromised.

You must quarantine for:

  • 14 days if you had close contact with someone diagnosed with COVID-19 or strongly suspected of having the virus.

Please follow specific public health guidance for isolating and quarantining, or call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 for further direction.

How to Isolate
Stay home

Do not use public transportation, taxis or rideshares.

Do not go to work, school or other public places.

Stay home unless you need to get tested or require emergency medical care.


Avoid contact with others

No visitors unless essential (e.g. care providers)

Stay away from seniors and people with chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, lung problems, immune deficiency).

As much as possible, stay in a separate room away from other people in your home and use a separate bathroom if you have one.

Make sure that shared rooms have good airflow (e.g. open windows).

If these steps are not possible, keep a distance of at least two metres (6 feet) from others at all times.


Keep your distance

If you are in a room with other people, keep a distance of at least two metres and wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

Other people should wear a mask when they are in the same room as you.


Wash your hands

Wash your hands often with soap and water.

Dry your hands with a paper towel, or with your own cloth towel that no one else will share.

Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.


Cover your coughs and sneezes

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hand.

Throw used tissues in a lined wastebasket, and wash your hands. Lining the wastebasket with a plastic bag makes waste disposal safer.

Clean your hands after emptying the wastebasket.


Wear a mask over your nose and mouth

Wear a mask if you must leave your house to see a health care provider or to get tested for COVID-19.

Wear a mask when you are within two metres of other people, or stay in a separate room.

If you do not have a mask, maintain two metres distance from people and cover your cough and sneezes


What should I do if I develop symptoms?
  • Complete the COVID-19 Self-Assessment.
  • Contact Telehealth (1-866-797-0000) or your health care provider.
  • Anyone with whom you had close physical contact (e.g., in your household) in the two days before your symptoms started or after symptoms started should also isolate. If you have questions about this, call the local Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020.
  • You will be directed by the Health Unit or health care provider on how long you need to isolate or quarantine.
  • When you stop isolating or quarantining, you should continue with measures to prevent COVID-19, including physical distancing and properly wearing a mask or face covering.
  • If you are still unwell at the end of your isolation or quarantine period, contact Telehealth or your health care provider for further direction.

Isolating with NO COVID-19 Symptoms (Older Adults and people with existing medical conditions)

After Your Isolation Period is Over

If you do not develop symptoms after your isolation period is over OR If you no longer have a fever and your symptoms have improved:

  • You can stop isolating, but for your protection, stay home except for essential trips (e.g. groceries and medication)
  • You MUST practise physical distancing measures when in public
  • Continue with frequent handwashing and avoid touching your face

If you are still unwell after this period, contact Telehealth or your health care provider for further direction. You can also call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020.


Additional Resources
Watch our video on YouTube

211 Community Support – Easily find/search government and community-based services during COVID-19. Call or text 2-1-1 day or night to find support for all of life’s challenges. Live Chat also available Monday to Friday from 7 am to 9 pm.


Download and print resources below:

Physical Distancing

Practise physical distancing as much as possible anytime you’re outdoors or in the community. This is important to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tips for Physical Distancing:
  • Keep a minimum two-metre (six-foot) distance between yourself and others. That’s roughly the length of a hockey stick.
  • When out in the community, practise physical distancing every step of the way!
  • With more businesses and services reopening, the Health Unit is now instructing the use of non-medical masks or face coverings inside all public places. Click here for more specifics on this instruction.
  • Get outside to exercise and be active, but try to maintain a physical distance of at last 2 metres (6-feet) from others. This is especially true as more parks and outdoor recreational amenities reopen.
  • Greet people with a wave, bow or nod, instead of handshake or hug. After being outside, wash your hands with soap and water.
  • During the province-wide COVID-19 shutdown, do not gather with a group for a celebration or event. Instead, try to connect with family or friends by phone or online.
  • Work from home if possible. Talk to your supervisor, manager, or employer about options. Cancel in-person business meetings. Instead, look at teleconferencing or video chat options.
  • If you are sick, avoid visits to care facilities like long-term care homes, retirement homes, supportive housing, and hospices. Stay home and use Ontario’s online COVID-19 Screening Tool to see what additional care you may need.
  • Sanitize/wash your hands when entering or exiting building. Avoid long lineups. Use tap to pay instead of handling money.
  • Do NOT use public transit if you are sick. Self-isolate at home right away.
  • If you must use public transit, wash hands often, keep a two-metre distance between other passengers, wear a non-medical mask and aim to travel in non-peak hours.

Remember: While you may not feel sick, and while these measures may seem inconvenient, they are important to reduce the spread of COVID-19.


Additional Resources:

Download and print resources below:

How to Self-Monitor

It’s important to take steps to slow the spread of COVID-19. That’s why it’s essential to watch for symptoms.

Here’s how to self-monitor if you are asked by your health care provider or public health unit to watch for symptoms of COVID-19.

Monitor for symptoms for 14 days after exposure for fever, cough or difficulty breathing

Image of three characters representing someone having a fever, another with a cough and a third with difficulty breathing
Avoid Public Spaces

Avoid crowded public spaces and places where you cannot easily separate yourself from others if you become ill.

If you are unable to maintain a two metre distance, wear a non-medical mask or face covering to protect others from your potentially infectious droplets

What to do if you develop these or any other symptoms?
  • Self-isolate immediately and contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020, your health care provider or take a COVID-19 online self-assessment.
  • To isolate you will need:
    • Soap, water and/or alcohol-based hand sanitizer to clean your hands
  • If you visit your health care provider, avoid using public transportation such as subways, taxis and shared rides. If you cannot avoid this, wear a mask and keep a two-metre distance from others or use the back seat if in a car.

This information is from the Public Health Ontario fact sheet “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) How to Self-Monitor

Additional Resource:

211 Community Support – Easily find/search government and community-based services during COVID-19.  Call or text 2-1-1 day or night to find support for all of life’s challenges. Live Chat also available Monday to Friday from 7 am to 9 pm.

Download and print resources below:

Image of Are You Sick? AODA compliant poster – click to download
Image of Are You Sick? AODA compliant poster – click to download

Are You Sick?
Poster

General COVID-19 Video Resources

COVID-19 Resources

Get COVID-19 prevention tips by watching these videos. You can also click here for links to workplace-specific prevention videos.

How to Use a Cloth Mask (3-Layer)

How to Wear a Medical Mask

COVID-19 – How to Self Isolate

COVID- How to Self-Monitor

How To: Hand Hygiene

COVID-19 – Respiratory Etiquette

COVID-19 and Handwashing

COVID-19 – Hand Sanitizer

Using Cloth Masks During COVID-19

Caring for Pets if You Have COVID-19

Top 5 Ways to Stay Healthy During COVID-19

Top 5 Ways For Seniors to Stay Healthy During COVID-19

Top 5 Ways for People with Medical Conditions to Stay Healthy During COVID-19

Cleaning with Disinfectant Wipes

Handwashing and Hand Hygiene

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to keep yourself safe from COVID-19. Click here to download a printable How to Handwash poster.

Step 1

Wet hands with warm running water.

Step 2

Apply soap, any type will clean your hand effectively.

Step 3

Rub hands palm to palm

Step 4

Lather the backs of your hands

Step 5

Clean thumbs

Step 6

Wash fingernails and fingertips

Step 7

Rinse hands

Step 8

Dry with a single use towel

Step 9

Use the towel to turn off the faucet

Additional Resources
Watch our YouTube video
Additional Resources:

Download and print resources below:

Mental Health and COVID-19

COVID-19 can feel overwhelming. While it’s important to reduce the risk of the virus, you also need to look after your mental health at this time. Here’s what to do: 

  • Maintain routines as you’re able, keeping in mind the importance to take precautions such as physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19.
  • While you’re encouraged to only have close contact with others in your immediate household, stay connected with family and friends through phone, social media or video-conferencing.
  • Seek professional help. If you’re overwhelmed, talk by phone to a health professional or counsellor. If you have coverage for a counsellor through work, access your Employee and Family Assistance Plan.  
  • Eat well 
  • Stay active: Doing fun and healthy activities outdoors makes it easier to keep physical distance.  
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Look back at challenging situations and see how you successfully coped with them 
  • Limit your daily dose of COVID-19-related news to reduce anxiety and worry. Fight fear with facts about the pandemic by turning to credible sources of information. 

Supporting Others 

  • COVID-19 affects everyone, so be kind to others – regardless of gender, ethnicity, income or age. 
  • Reduce stigma. Use supportive language like: “people who have COVID-19”, “people who are being treated for COVID19”, or “people who are recovering from COVID-19”. Don’t define others  just because they’re affected by the coronavirus.   
  • Be neighbourly and assist others where possible, being sure to protect your health as well. 
  • Share positive and inspiring stories of what your community is doing to pull together during this time.  
  • Be patient and recognize the role caretakers and health care workers are playing in supporting people affected with COVID-19.  
If You Are Self-Isolating 
  • Stay connected with friends and family by phone, social media or video calls. 
  • Ask for help from friends, family and neighbours to deliver necessities to your door. Many community groups (e.g. churches and service clubs) have volunteers to help those who are isolated. 
  • Even if isolating or in quarantine, keep up your personal daily routines at home or create new ones.  
  • Stay healthy. Be active, eat well and get enough sleep.  
If You Have Mental Health and Addiction Issues

It’s extra important to control your anxiety and maintain your mental wellness during COVID-19:

  • Consider and accept that some fear and anxiety is normal
  • Seek credible information provided by experts and reputable sources
  • Assess your personal risk
  • Seek support
  • Get proper rest and sleep
  • Stay active
  • Access this Mental Health and COVID-19 Pandemic resource from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).
Additional Resources:  

Four County Crisis – If you’re in crisis please call 705-745-6484 or toll-free 1-866-995-9933. By phoning these numbers, you can access 24-hour, free, confidential crisis support.

211 Community Support – Easily find/search government and community-based services during COVID-19.  Call or text 2-1-1 day or night to find support for all of life’s challenges. Live Chat also available Monday to Friday from 7 am to 9 pm.

Centre for Addition and Mental Health  

Bounce Back – A guided self-help program for adults and youth aged 15 and over using workbooks with online videos and phone coaching support.

Kids’ Help Phone – 24/7 virtual support service offering professional counselling, information and referrals as well as volunteer-led, text-based support to young people. Services available in both English and French by calling 1-800-668-6868.

Good2Talk – Free, confidential mental health support service providing professional counselling and information and referrals for mental health, addictions and well-being to postsecondary students in Ontario

Wellness Together Canada – Mental health and substance use support.

World Health Organization 

Download and print resources below:

Respiratory Etiquette

Health is in our hands! Let’s prevent the spread of COVID-19 by using simple, but effective steps to protect our health:

Cover Your Cough

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the waste basket

Young girl blowing her nose into a tissue
Sneeze in Your Sleeve

If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.

Mask

You may be asked to put on a face mask to protect others.

Wash Hands

Wash hands often with soap and warm water for 15 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

Woman washing hands.
Watch our video on YouTube
Additional Resources

How to Cover Your Cough – Public Health Ontario

Download and print resources below:

Cleaning and Disinfecting During COVID-19

It is essential to clean and disinfect common surfaces to reduce the spread of illnesses like COVID-19. Here’s what to do:


What you should know
  • Commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19.
  • Frequently touched surfaces are most likely to be contaminated.
  • Check the expiry date of products you use and always follow manufacturer’s instructions.
Icon image of a tub of cleaning supplies
Clean frequently touched surfaces often
  • In addition to routine cleaning, surfaces that have frequent contact with hands should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Examples include doorknobs, kitchens, light switches, toilet handles, counters, remotes, touch screen surfaces and keypads.
Icon image of a finger touching a surface

Select products

Cleaners
  • Break down grease and remove organic material from the surface.
  • Used separately before using disinfectants.
  • Can be purchased with cleaner and disinfectant combined in a single product
Icon of a sponge filled with bubbles
Disinfectants
Icon of a spray bottle of disinfectant
Disinfectant Wipes
  • Have combined cleaners and disinfectants in one solution.
  • May become dry due to fast drying properties. Should be discarded if they become dry.
  • Not recommended for heavily soiled surfaces.
Prepare products for use
  • Where possible, use pre-mixed solution.
  • Read and follow manufacturer’s instructions to:
    • properly prepare solution
    • allow adequate contact time for disinfectant to kill germs (see product label)
    • wear gloves, if you have sensitive skin, when handling cleaning products including wipes or wash your hands after use
Watch our video on YouTube

This information is from the Public Health Ontario fact sheet “COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings”

If you have questions about COVID-19, contact your health care provider, Telehealth 1-866-797-0000 or the HKPR District Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577 x5020.

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