Ontario makes specific recommendations for wearing a face covering, non-medical mask

The Ontario government is recommending people in the province wear a non-medical face covering when physical distancing is not possible, specifically calling out people taking public transit.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health has released the following recommendations:

  • Wear your face covering safely and snugly to cover your nose and mouth, without any gaps. Ensure your face covering is made of at least two layers of tightly woven material and can be cleaned multiple times without losing its shape.

  • Medical masks, such as surgical and N95 masks, should be reserved for use by health care workers, those providing direct care, first responders and individuals who are ill and must leave their home for essential reasons such as seeking medical care, picking up medication or groceries.

  • Face coverings should not be placed on or used by children under the age of two, anyone who has trouble breathing and anyone who is unable to remove it without assistance.

On public transit, the province is also recommending a number measures be put in place, including admitting fewer passengers to help with physical distancing, ensuring alcohol-based hand sanitizer is available when entering and exiting the vehicle, and introducing plexiglass windows between drivers and passengers.

Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, reiterated Wednesday’s messaging related to the use of non-medical masks as people “have more reason to be out and around” and it may be more difficult to maintain a two-metre physical distance.

Dr. Williams said we do not know the specifics on the risks of contracting COVID-19 on public transit but said he does not want to see people “jammed in” face to face like they were before.

“In those close proximity...it would be biologically plausible that you’re increasing the potential for transmission,” Dr. Williams said.

When asked about people who may have financial difficulties acquiring these supplies, premier Doug Ford said “any face covering is better than none at all.”

When asked about a possible timeframe for Stage 2 of the reopening plan, Ford said if cases continue to go up he “won’t hesitate to roll things back again.”

TORONTO, May 4, 2020 .Customers wearing face masks do shopping at a garden center in Toronto, Canada, on May 4, 2020. Some provinces in Canada on Monday started easing some of their COVID-19 restrictions following a weekend over which thousands more cases were identified and hundreds more deaths reported. (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty Images)

This follows Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, and Dr. Howard Njoo, deputy chief public health officer, making a “recommendation” that Canadians wear a non-medical mask when they cannot maintain a two-metre physical distance.

Dr. Tam said this recommendation is coming after increasing questions related to asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread continue to rise and communities are looking for added measures to prevent transmission to others.

“Although we don’t fully understand their role in transmission, it is an added layer of protection,” Dr. Tam said.