Wearing Masks in the Community and Workplaces
Wearing a mask in the community is not a substitute for physical distancing and hand washing. It is an additional measure to protect you and those around you, even if you don’t have symptoms.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do masks need to be worn?
Masks are mandatory in all enclosed public spaces in Prince Edward Island including:
- Retail businesses, shopping centres, buildings or rooms of businesses where services are provided to the public
- Restaurants or drinking establishments (except when drinking or eating)
- Places of worship and faith gatherings when not seated
- Arts, cultural, entertainment venues when not seated
- Sports and recreation facilities (except during physical activity)
- Spaces used to hold events, including conferences, conventions and receptions
- Government buildings that provide public services
- Common areas in office buildings and tourist accommodation establishments, such as lobbies, reception areas, elevators, stairwells
- Common areas on university or college campuses
- Bus stations, ferry terminals, airports
- Public transit, public passenger vehicles, taxis
Starting December 17, 2021, masks are also required in all areas of workplaces where physical distance cannot be achieved (unless occupational health and safety concerns).
Schools, licensed childcare centres, and healthcare facilities will continue to follow organization specific operational plans and mask guidance.
Why is it mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces in PEI?
Masks are effective in helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 particularly when combined with other important health measures, such as:
- physical distancing
- hand washing
- staying home when not feeling well
- keeping your circle of contacts small
- disinfecting frequently touched surfaces
Who is exempt from wearing a mask?
Some people are unable to wear masks for various reasons. In some cases, these reasons may not be visible to others and people are not expected to produce proof of exemption. We should always treat each other with kindness, respect and understanding.
Exemptions for individuals include but not limited to, the following:
- Children under the age of 2
- Children between the ages of 2 and 5 who cannot be persuaded to wear a mask
- Anyone who cannot remove a mask without assistance
- People with a valid medical reason (most people with underlying medical conditions can wear a mask safely)
Exemptions for activities include but not limited to, the following:
- During some treatments, services or physical activity
- When actively eating or drinking while and seated (masks are not permitted to be removed while circulating)
- Performers, as outlined in the questions and answers below
Starting December 17, 2021, it is no longer permitted to remove masks when seated at indoor events (such as church services and indoor seated concerts), when there is 6 feet of physical distance between individuals of different households or different close social groups.
Masks should be worn as much as possible to reduce risk to yourself and others.
It is especially important that people unable to wear a mask practice physical distancing, wash or sanitize hands frequently and get tested if unwell. It is also recommended that - when entering crowded settings - people unable to wear a mask, consider their own risk of more severe disease or outcomes and that of others, as well as their vaccination status, and whether the vaccine status of others is known.
Are masks still required if physical distancing can be maintained or barriers are present?
Yes, masks are still required except as noted above while seated at indoor events, even when physical distancing can be maintained or barriers such as plexiglass are present. Masks are an important added layer of protection which supplement other public health measures but do not replace them.
Is it necessary to wear a mask while participating in indoor organized sports or physical activity?
Masks are not required while participating in an organized sport or physical activity, but they must be worn at all other times, including between practices and games. Individuals should wear masks wherever possible.
How does the mask mandate apply to the wedding party at indoor wedding ceremonies?
Members of a wedding party may remove their non-medical masks during a wedding ceremony in some circumstances, as follows:
- Members of the wedding party may remove masks while walking down the aisle, provided the people walking down the aisle are not interacting with members of the audience,
- Members of the wedding party may remove masks at the front of the church during the service, provided they are physically distant from the audience.
Starting December 17, masks are required when seated at indoor wedding ceremonies, even if physical distancing can be maintained throughout the activity, event or service.
Are masks required at places of worship and faith gatherings?
Starting December 17, masks are required when seated at indoor faith gatherings and services at places of worship, including while singing, even if physical distancing can be maintained throughout the activity, event or service.
Performers or officiants such as ministers and readers can choose to remove their mask while talking or singing. See next question on performing in public places.
Is it necessary to wear a mask while performing, including singing or playing wind instruments in an indoor public place?
Individual performers are not required to wear masks while performing activities requiring vocalization, such as talking or singing. This applies at: social events; arts and culture events; sports and physical activities; and weddings, funerals and other faith gatherings.
For performance groups where physical distancing cannot be maintained (such as choirs), masks are required while rehearsing and recommended when performing.
Masks are not required to be worn by individuals playing wind or brass instruments while performing or rehearsing in public places, however masks must be worn at all other times.
Are masks required for audiences at gatherings such as meetings or concerts in indoor public places? Can people take off their mask once seated at a gathering?
Masks are required for gatherings at indoor public places.
Starting December 17, masks are required in indoor public places even if physical distancing can be maintained throughout the activity.
If I work in a place the public cannot access to such as a kitchen or a private cubicle, do I need to wear a mask?
Starting December 17, 2021, masks are required in all areas of workplaces where physical distance cannot be achieved (unless there would be a safety issue associated with wearing the mask).
Otherwise, if the area in which you are working is not open to the public, including private office buildings and cubicles or kitchen spaces that are not accessible to patrons, wearing a mask is not mandatory.
How is the mask policy enforced?
We are taking a cooperative approach to enforcement, relying on Islanders to make good decisions to protect themselves and others from COVID-19. Wear a mask to protect our Island community.
What is the role of businesses and operators in helping to enforce people wear a mask?
The operator of a business or public space should ensure that every person who is not wearing a mask while on the premises is provided with a single verbal reminder to do so as soon as possible upon entry. Businesses are discouraged from refusing entry to people who say they are exempt from wearing a mask, and should not ask for proof of exemption
Some people cannot wear masks for medical reasons and sometimes the reasons are not visible. Islanders, including business owners and staff, are encouraged to be kind and show compassion and understanding. The primary objective is to educate, inform and gain voluntary compliance. We would not advise businesses to risk the safety of their staff to enforce the rule.
These masking rules set a minimum standard for businesses in PEI but some may choose to follow stricter rules. Businesses and operators should update their operational plans to include the requirement for masks on the premises, but it is not necessary to resubmit the plan.
Businesses and operators are also encouraged to download this sign provided by the Chief Public Health Office, or produce their own, and display it on the premises.
Are masks required or recommended outdoors?
- Masks are recommended for people 12 and older, regardless of vaccination status, in outdoor settings where physical distancing cannot be maintained
- Those who serve the public outdoors (e.g., restaurant servers) should wear a mask
What type of mask to choose?
Different types of masks are available for public use. Non-medical masks, medical masks and respirators can all be used in the community. The effectiveness of non-medical masks depends on material, construction, fit and proper use. A mask is most effective when it is worn properly. Keep your nose and mouth covered while wearing a mask to prevent exposing yourself and others to potentially infectious respiratory particles.
Non-medical masks can be homemade or commercial. Non-medical face masks should:
- Be made of at least 2 layers of breathable tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen) and; an effective middle filter layer. - such as non-woven polypropylene fabric*
- Include a filter in your non-medical mask by:
- Adding a filter fabric as a middle layer
- Inserting a disposable filter into a pocket on the inside of the mask
- Filters can be purchased or you can prepare your own using a piece of filter fabric
Fit is important for all mask types:
- Be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping and not allow air to escape from the edges.
- Masks with a flexible nose piece may provide a better fit over the nose.
- Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops, adjustable ear loops improve fit.
- Allow for easy breathing
- Be comfortable and not require frequent adjustment
- Be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
- Maintain its shape after washing and drying
In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection. No matter which type of mask you choose, proper fit is a key factor in its effectiveness.
Ways to improve fit include:
- Adjusting ties or ear loops
- Adjusting the flexible nose piece
- Tying knots in the ear loops and tucking the sides of the masks so that it lies flat
- Using a mask fitter or brace
- A mask fitter or brace is a device made of flexible material worn over a mask to help provide a snug fit (may be made of plastic or silicone).
- Layering a well-fitting non-medical cloth mask over the top of disposable mask to improve the fit.
- Keeping facial hair and beards shaved short, if possible, so the mask can fit more closely to your face.
Proper use and care
To make mask use as effective as possible, it’s essential to make sure you’re using, storing and cleaning them properly.
A mask is most effective when it is worn properly. Keep your nose and mouth covered while wearing a mask to prevent exposing yourself and others to potentially infectious respiratory particles.
Wash your hand or use alcohol based hand sanitizer when you:
- Adjust your mask
- Put your mask on
- Take your mask off
It is important to keep your mask clean when not in use.
Do not hang the mask from your ears or place it under your chin.
Properly clean and disinfect any items that improve mask fit such as braces and mask fitters.
Discard disposable masks and filters properly in a garbage container or recycle if appropriate.
Change your mask as soon as possible if it gets dirty, damp or damaged. Place dirty reusable non-medical masks is a secure, waterproof bag or container until you can wash them in the laundry.
Medical masks and respirators
Medical masks and respirators are typically single use and disposable, but may be reused until visibly dirty, damp or damaged.
*Guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada recommends 3-layer masks. At this time, Islanders should continue to use their 2-layer masks. As we replace our masks, we should purchase 3-layer masks that includes a middle filter layer.
Non-medical masks should not:
- Be placed on children under the age of 2 years
- Be placed on anyone unable to remove them without assistance or anyone who has trouble breathing
- Be made exclusively of materials that easily fall apart, such as tissues
- Have exhalation valves
- Be secured with tape or other inappropriate materials
- Be shared with others
- Be allowed to hang from your ears
- Be placed under your chin
- Impair vision or interfere with tasks
Can I wear a face shield, spit guard, or another mask alternative?
No. Alternatives—including face shields, spit guards, gaiters, scarves—are not as effective at preventing the transmission of viruses as non-medical masks. Face shields and spit guards do not effectively contain the spray of respiratory droplets. Neck gaiters and scarves aren't well secured to the head or ears, and are difficult to remove without contaminating yourself.
In some instances, face shields can be worn in addition to non-medical masks, as an added layer of protection. Service providers that require their client’s face to be uncovered (eg. facials, dental procedures) should consider eye protection, such as a face shield, in addition to a mask.
Should I wear a mask with an exhalation valve?
No. Do not use masks or respirators with exhalation valves. These masks do not protect others from COVID-19 or limit the spread of the virus. This is because they allow infectious respiratory droplets to spread outside the mask.
Face shields, spit guards, gaiters and scarves are not substitutes for non-medical masks.
How do I put on a non-medical mask or face covering?
- Ensure the face covering is clean and dry, and free of tears or holes.
- Whenever possible, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with a 60-80% alcohol base.
- Ensure your hair is away from your face.
- Place the face covering over your nose and mouth and secure to your head or ears with its ties or elastics. Adjust, if needed, to ensure nose and mouth are fully covered. The mask should fit snugly to the cheeks and there should not be any gaps.
- Repeat step 2.
While wearing a non-medical mask or face covering, it is important to avoid touching your face. If you do touch your mask or face, you should immediately wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. You can also use hand sanitizer with a 60-80% alcohol base.
Masks and face coverings are only effective if worn properly. Uncovering your nose or mouth while wearing one:
- Eliminates any protection it may offer
- Allows you to breathe in and exhale potentially infectious respiratory droplets
How do I remove a non-medical mask or face covering?
- Whenever possible, wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer with a 60-80% alcohol base.
- Remove the face covering by un-tying it or removing the loops from your ears. Avoid touching the front of the mask when removing it. It can be placed in a plastic bag temporarily if possible (make sure you close or zip seal the bag while storing it).
- If you plan to reuse the mask, wash it before wearing it again. It can be washed with hot, soapy water, or it can be washed with your other laundry.
- After removing the face covering, repeat Step 1.
You should try to reduce the number of times you take your mask off and put it back on. If entering and exiting multiple indoor spaces where masks are required, consider leaving your mask on for the duration of your outing.
It is important to keep your mask or face covering clean when not in use, or when eating or drinking. Store it in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again. Soiled masks or face coverings should be placed in a secure, waterproof bag or container until they can be washed in the laundry.
What measures are recommended for individuals who medically cannot wear a mask?
If you are not able to wear a mask for medical reasons or because you are not able to remove it without assistance, in public places you are advised to:
- avoid spaces where you will be exposed to other people where they could be positive or where people will not be wearing masks,
- maintain physical distancing,
- keep your circle of contacts small,
- meet with people outside or in large rooms with good air circulation,
- Plan errands such as groceries at non-peak times such as early in the morning or later in the evening when stores are quieter.
If other people can wear medical masks, that would help to reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission.