As the novel coronavirus outbreak drags on, face masks have become a ubiquitous accessory for millions of Canadians.
For a long time, health officials advised against wearing a mask in public places — that is, until mid-May, when chief medical officer Dr. Theresa Tam changed her stance and officially recommended people wear either a medical or homemade mask in spaces where physical distancing is not possible.
Now, Toronto Mayor John Tory said Tuesday he will vote in favour of making face masks mandatory to wear in indoor public settings, on the recommendation of the city’s chief medical officer of health amid the coronavirus pandemic. If approved by city council, the bylaw will go into effect July 7.
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Peel Region mayors and health officials have done the same, and a special council meeting is scheduled for Thursday to ratify the recommendation.
“It is time to move from a strong recommendation to a requirement in places where physical distancing cannot be maintained such as indoor public spaces,” said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s chief medical officer.
In Quebec, Côte Saint-Luc has become the first town in the province to make masks mandatory in indoor spaces. The bylaw comes into effect on July 1.
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Dr. Horacio Arruda, Quebec’s director of public health, hinted masks may soon be mandatory on public transit, and that an announcement could be made by Premier Legault in the coming days.
Business law experts like Richard Powers, a University of Toronto associate professor with expertise in business law, say it’s well within the rights of a company to refuse business if a customer is not wearing a mask.
“The safety of retail workers and staff trumps the customer’s right to refuse wearing a mask,” he previously told the Canadian Press.
“Businesses have a legal responsibility to create a safe working environment, and if having people wear masks is a reasonable accommodation, which I think it is, to provide that safe environment, I believe that the retailer can refuse entry to someone who will not don a mask.”
Using a mask is particularly recommended in “crowded public settings” like stores, shopping areas and public transportation, according to Health Canada.
READ MORE: Where to buy face masks online in Canada and how to choose
When it comes to properly wearing a mask, there are some key rules to follow laid out by Health Canada, including:
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- It should allow for “easy breathing”
- It should fit securely to your head with ties or ear loops
- It should be changed as soon as possible if it’s damp or dirty
- It should not be shared with others
Now, some companies across the country have made mask-wearing mandatory for customers. Below is a list of the places you will be required to wear a mask.
Canada’s most popular ridesharing apps will now require both users and drivers to wear a face mask.
Passengers and drivers using Uber will be able to cancel rides if the person operating or entering the vehicle doesn’t wear a mask or if someone removes a mask partway through the trip.
Passengers will also have an in-app option to notify Uber about the removal when they rate the ride.
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As of June 10, face masks are also required for both riders and drivers using Lyft.
It’s part of the company’s new health safety program in response to COVID-19 and also includes the distribution of cleaning supplies and masks for drivers.
“We now require that all riders and drivers stay home if they’re sick, wear face coverings when using Lyft, frequently sanitize hands and car surfaces, leave the front seat empty and keep windows open when possible,” the company said in a statement.
Via Rail trains
With the economy reopening and trains starting to run again, Via Rail announced that passengers will be required to wear face masks as of June 23.
Masks are also mandatory for employees who interact with customers.
They must be worn throughout trips, except when eating or drinking, and when physical distancing is not possible in stations and at boarding.
Via Rail says it will have a limited number of disposable masks available for passengers who don’t have one at boarding.
Passengers with medical conditions that result in trouble breathing unrelated to COVID-19, infants under two years old and small children or anyone unable to remove a mask without assistance will not be required to wear one.
All airline flight crew and airport workers are now required to wear non-medical masks in addition to the existing requirement for passengers.
The same goes for marine workers, who are advised to possess a face covering that will be worn depending on the workplace risk, when physical distancing can’t be maintained or where local authorities require it.
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The rules were put in place along with mask requirements for trains and public transit by Transport Canada.
“My top concern continues to be the well-being of the transportation workers and the travelling public,” Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in a statement.
“The use of face coverings can limit the transmission of the virus where physical distancing cannot be maintained.”
As restaurants begin to reopen across Canada, a large number have instituted rules around mask-wearing for both staff and patrons.
For customers, these rules typically apply to when you are standing in line, using the bathroom or ordering — not when you’re eating or drinking.
For example, Jack Astor’s and Joey Restaurants have both begun to require that a mask is worn by any employee handling food — from front-of-house staff to employees in the kitchen and everyone in between.
Meanwhile, Moxie’s will have personal protective equipment available for any guest who requests it.
Some grocery stores
While it’s not the same across the board, several large grocery store chains in Canada have begun to turn away customers who aren’t wearing a face mask.
Longo’s, a Toronto-based grocery store with locations across the Greater Toronto Area, implemented this rule in early May.
T&T Supermarket, a popular Asian grocery chain owned by Loblaws, also requires face coverings for both employees and customers.
READ MORE: Calgary Transit to install new barriers, provide face masks to increase ridership
Whole Foods has also requested that all customers wear masks while shopping.
The company will provide face masks at the entrance of all stores for customers who don’t have their own, according to a statement on its website.
Some salons, barbershops
Depending on where you live, some salons and barbershops will also require both guests and staff to wear a mask during a haircut or manicure.
There is no one Canada-wide approach to reopening salons. Some provinces, like Manitoba and Saskatchewan, have published guidelines for salons and barbershops, with rules including reducing the number of clients in the salon at a time, spacing out appointments to ensure enough time for cleaning and requiring both staff and clients to use the COVID-19 self-screening tool before appointments.
Saskatchewan announced in late April that salons and barbershops could reopen on May 19 and has published general guidelines for personal care services during the pandemic. Among those are securing personal protective equipment and adjusting physical spaces to allow for physical distancing between clients where possible.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.
— With files from the Canadian Press, Global News’ Laura Hensley, Jessica Patton & Gabby Rodrigues