As the COVID-19 numbers continue to climb, the Ontario government has announced that the province will make masks and face coverings mandatory for all indoor public spaces. A copy of the province’s press release is available here. A copy of the Regulation (which became effective October 3, 2020 at 12:01 am) is available here.
But wait, we are already wearing masks – what’s the difference?
Before this announcement, the local medical officers of health were responsible for instituting mandatory mask use; a decision made at the local level. This meant that the requirements varied by municipality. Now, the province has mandated the use of masks and face coverings for all indoor public spaces, province-wide.
What does this mean for my business?
All Ontario businesses or organizations that are open to the public are now required to ensure that masks or face-coverings are worn in indoor public spaces. This includes indoor public spaces such as businesses, facilities, and workplaces. The Regulation also applies to people who are travelling in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization.
Employees must also wear a mask or face covering when working in an indoor area of the business or organization during any period when they are in the indoor area. However, the Regulation does contain an exemption which allows an employee not to wear a mask or face covering if they are performing work that is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public and where physical distancing of two (2) meters can be maintained.
Are there exemptions to wearing a mask or face covering?
The Regulation provides that any person in the indoor area must wear a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose, and chin, unless the person:
- is a child who is younger than two years of age;
- has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering;
- is unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person;
- needs to temporarily remove their mask or face covering while in the indoor area,
- to receive services that require the removal of their mask or face covering,
- to engage in an athletic or fitness activity
- to consume food or drink, or
- as may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety;
- is being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005;
- is being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code; or
The Regulation also does not apply to a person who is:
- is performing or rehearsing in a film or television production or in a concert, artistic event, theatrical performance or other performance;
- is attending a school or private school within the meaning of the Education Act that is operated in accordance with a return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health;
- is attending a child care program at a place that is in compliance with the child care re-opening guidance issued by the Ministry of Education;
- is in a correctional institution or in a custody and detention program for young persons in conflict with the law; or
- is receiving residential services and supports in a residence listed in the definition of “residential services and supports” in the Developmental Disabilities Act, 2008.
Importantly, the Regulation provides that it is not necessary for a person to present evidence that they are entitled to any of the above-noted exemptions.
The Regulation also does not apply to a dwelling if the person responsible for the business or organization ensures that persons wear a mask or face covering in any common area where physical distancing of two (2) meters cannot be maintained.
Although your business may already be using masks or face coverings (especially if within a region that has already required masks and face coverings in indoor public spaces), businesses or organizations must continue to ensure that they are following public health advice.
We will continue to closely monitor COVID-19-related announcements from the Ontario government that will impact your business, and will provide further information as it becomes available. In case you missed it, please see a related article, Ontario employers are now legally required to screen employees coming to work using the government’s “Screening Tool.”