mandatory masks ontario

This is where face masks are now mandatory in Ontario and what you need to know

Masks are now mandatory in indoor public spaces in most of Ontario as cities have enacted bylaws to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Make sure you know what the rules are and what regions and cities have policies in place.

What cities and regions have a mandatory mask policy?

Numerous municipalities have taken matters into their own hands to pass temporary bylaws mandating the public to wear masks in indoor spaces. Among these regions includes:

  • Toronto
  • Durham
  • Waterloo
  • Peel
  • Kingston
  • Windsor-Essex County
  • Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph
  • Lennox and Addington County
  • Frontenac County
  • Middlesex-London 
  • Prescott-Russell
  • Leeds and Grenville
  • Lanark
  • Renfrew County
  • United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry
  • Sudbury-Manitoulin
  • Nipissing District

Many communities were still deliberating in council on whether or not to make masks mandatory but made changes after this story was first posted:

In communities with mask bylaws, there are specific spaces where it is necessary to wear one. The Government of Ontario recommends wearing a face covering on public transit, at smaller grocery stores or pharmacies and when you’re receiving essential services. 

Where do you need to wear a mask?

There could be slight differences depending on what city or region you're in, but generally the mandatory mask policy applies to indoor areas only and includes the following types of places:

  • convenience stores
  • malls and shopping plazas
  • enclosed areas of grocery stores, bakeries and farmer’s markets
  • restaurants and bars when permitted to open for indoor service
  • indoor recreational facilities, gyms, and swimming pools when permitted to open
  • libraries
  • community centres
  • community service agencies
  • personal service settings
  • churches, mosque, synagogue, temples and faith settings
  • art galleries, museums, aquariums and zoos
  • banquet halls, convention centres, arenas, stadiums and other event spaces
  • real estate facilities such as open houses, presentation centres
  • common areas in hotels, motels and short-term rentals
  • entertainment facilities including concert venues, theatres, cinemas and casinos
  • business offices open to the public
Where will masks not be required?

There are select few spaces where masks will not be mandatory. This includes while driving, while in your own home (unless someone visits), while going for a run or a walk, eating on a restaurant patio, at childcare facilities and workspaces where physical distancing is possible. 

For public transit specifically, it is up to operators to decide on how they wish to proceed with mandating masks.

The TTC, for instance, made masks mandatory starting July 2. Certain services, where it is not possible to wear a mask, such as at the dentist, will allow you to temporarily remove it while you are receiving those services.

What about fines for not cooperating?

In Toronto, there will be no fines if people do not wear masks. Mayors of other localities have echoed similar sentiments through passing their bylaws.

Who is exempt from wearing masks?

Masks are not required for children under the age of two, individuals who have trouble breathing, people who are hearing impaired, those who are unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance, businesses not open to the public, and employees behind a physical barrier.

Can we swap masks with face shields instead?

While they’re useful as an added layer of protection, the Government of Ontario says that face shields cannot be solely worn in public spaces as they do not provide complete protection. Shields need to be accompanied with a face covering.

How do you wear a face covering?

With all these rules, some may be wondering how masks should be worn. The provincial government provides these recommendations:

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off
  • Ensure it fits well around your nose and mouth
  • Avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
  • Avoid touching the covering while using it
  • Do not share it with others
  • Change your face covering when it becomes slightly wet or dirty

They also advise not disposing of face masks in shopping carts or on the ground, but to instead throw them into a lined garbage bin and wash your hands afterward.

Lead photo by

Stuart Green


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