Man wearing disposable medical mask shopping in supermarket during coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. Protection and prevent measures while epidemic time.

This Version Posted: October 20, 2020

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is updating its original instruction from July 13 on the use of non-medical masks or face coverings in indoor public spaces in the area. These updated instructions take effect at 12:01 am on July 17, 2020, and include most commercial establishments/services and indoor public places in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

IMPORTANT NOTE: As of now, the Ontario government is also mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions, including corrections and developmental services.

The revised Health Unit instructions have been updated under the authority of the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and apply to all persons responsible for operating a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public currently permitted to operate under 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 prevent the spread of COVID-19 in this region.

For more details, please read the the following FAQs, as well as posters, policy and resources to assist you with compliance.

Please Note: This order applies to non-medical masks and face coverings. Medical masks are different and must only be used by health care workers.


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 policies 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.

The Health Unit’s updated instructions apply to any places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public and used for the purposes of offering goods or services for sale or use. These establishments include: a mall or other structure containing commercial premises, and currently include the following:

  • Retail stores, convenience stores, malls/plazas, restaurants, personal service settings, grocery stores and bakeries, gas stations, indoor farmers’ markets, areas of mechanics’ shops/garages/repair shops, which are open to the public

Other indoor public places are also covered by this order, including: 

  • 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.).

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

In addition to the Health Unit’s mask instruction, the Ontario government is now also 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, retirement homes, long-term care homes or other similar dwellings (except when you are in common areas and can’t maintain 2 metres from others), and residences for people with developmental disabilities.

Are churches/places of worship covered under these updated instructions?

Yes, churches or places of worship are now included in the updated instructions for requiring mask use. Attendees to religious services/rites or ceremonies must wear masks at all times, with a secured 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 is this instruction on masks being updated (on July 17) so soon after it took effect (on July 13)?

With the move to Stage 3 on July 17, more businesses and services are reopening in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. The Health Unit’s revised instructions are meant to provide additional clarity and direction for mask use in these newly-opened establishments.

Wearing non-medical masks or face coverings inside public places is another way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in this area. As we move into Stage 3 reopening and more businesses and public spaces open and people increase their contacts, the risk of a rapid rise in infections and outbreaks is ever-present. Although the number of cases of COVID-19 in the Health Unit area is declining, the risk of ongoing spread remains as the reopening process continues.

Increasing scientific evidence supports wearing a mask when in enclosed public spaces as an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission, while the risk of rising rates of infection continues. Together with physical distancing, hand and cough hygiene, and staying home when ill, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering in a commercial establishment is an additional public health measure that may help 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?

  • Any areas in which customers interact with one another or with staff members

OR

  • Any areas that are open or accessible to members of the public

Except where: The area is outside, whether or not the area is covered (e.g. a restaurant patio)

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

In addition to the Health Unit’s mask order, the Ontario government is now also 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 workplaces when working in an indoor area that allows you to maintain a distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from anyone else.
  • In university dorms, retirement homes, long-term care homes 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 should have a policy to ensure public is 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.

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.

Who is exempt from this instruction?

The following people are exempt from the instruction to wear a mask while inside a commercial establishment. Please note: a person refers to any customer, patron, employee, or visitor who enters the premises:

  • The Person is a child under the age of two years; or a child under the age of 5 years either chronologically or developmentally and he or she refuses to wear a face covering and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver
  • The Person is unable to remove their mask without assistance
  • For any other medical reason, the Person cannot safely wear a non-medical mask or face covering such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information
  • For any religious reason, the Person cannot wear a non-medical mask or face covering or cannot cover the face in a manner that would properly control the source.

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. 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.

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.

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

Where can I find a mask if I can’t afford to buy one?

We are working with our community partners to connect people in need with masks. People can call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020, to learn more about accessing a mask. Another option is to use what you have at home – if someone cannot afford a non-medical mask, they are requested to use a bandana or scarf as a face covering.

Are places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public required to purchase masks or have them on hand for customers?

No, under the instructions issued by the Health Unit, places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public are not required to provide non-medical masks or face coverings to customers. If a customer does not have a non-medical mask, they can wear other face coverings, including a bandana or scarf.

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 policy requiring members of the public wear a mask or face covering when entering public areas of the enclosed public space.

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 the policy 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.

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 the policy 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.

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 people need to wear masks when on a restaurant patio? Do the servers need to wear masks?

No, customers do not need to wear a mask while on a restaurant patio as this is outside and is an exception to the instructions issued by the Health Unit. Servers who are interacting with the customers in the commercial establishment are required to wear face masks.

Do people need to wear a mask while at a hotel or bed and breakfast?

Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts offer services and would be considered commercial. This would be limited to areas that the hotels/B&Bs interact with the public, like the reception area, but not in private rooms or during outdoor dining. Masks are also not required when swimming in an indoor or outdoor public pool or using a public spa.

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

Yes, while in areas that are servicing the public.

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.

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 are not required to wear a mask if you do not interact or serve members of the public, but it is still recommended that you wear a mask if you cannot maintain a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from a co-worker.

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 of the policy 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.

Where is the science/proof that masks work?

COVID-19 is a new virus and we are continuing to learn more about the virus, how it affects people and how it is spread. Evidence is showing that wearing a mask, together with staying home when sick, physical distancing, washing hands thoroughly and frequently, and covering coughs and sneezes is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

Here is a paper from Public Health Ontario on the scientific evidence known at this point about masks.

Why was this not done in March when the pandemic started? Why now?

Although we have seen a decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in our area, we want to be sure we continue to see a decrease as we move towards the reopening of more businesses within the province. This is even more true as we enter Stage 3 of Ontario’s reopening plan. 

The risk for the ongoing spread of the virus remains as the process of reopening continues throughout the province. The use of non-medical masks or face coverings in public places, along with continued handwashing, physical distancing and staying home if sick, are some of the best public health measures to protect us from the virus.

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. 

How to Properly 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. 


Additional Resources

Posters For Businesses/Commercial Establishments

Sample Policy For Businesses – Mask Use in Commercial Establishments

How to Use/Wear a Cloth Mask Video – HKPR District Health Unit Video