Wearing Non-Medical Masks in the Community
Masks are recommended in indoor public settings for all people 12 and older who are not yet fully vaccinated.
- Masks are optional for children aged 2 to 12
- Children under 2 (and other individuals not able to remove masks on their own) should not wear masks
Some people may choose to continue to wear a mask after they're fully vaccinated especially in certain situations (e.g., if they are at risk of severe disease or outcomes, when they don't know the vaccine status of others, ability to maintain physical distancing)
Those who serve the public (e.g., restaurant servers, retail and grocery store staff, hair stylists and barbers) should continue to wear a mask, given they are not able to determine the vaccine status of their patrons and customers.
Service providers, organizations and businesses do not need to request proof of vaccine from patrons who are not wearing a mask. Businesses and organizations may choose to follow their own policies and guidelines that are more strict than the provincial guidance.
Those who are immunocompromised should also continue to wear a mask in indoor public spaces.
Health care facilities and providers should continue with their masking policies until we have 80% of eligible PEI residents fully vaccinated. For example, for now there will be no changes in the mask requirements for staff, visitors and partners in care in long term care facilities.
All Health PEI clinic services (hospitals, clinics, testing centres, vaccination clinics) will continue to require staff, patients and visitors to wear masks until 80% of eligible Islanders are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
There are no changes in the mask requirements for staff, visitors and partners in care in long term care facilities at this time.
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
Is it possible that mask requirements in indoor public spaces could return?
Depending on the COVID-19 situation, the need for mask requirements as well as other public health measures, will continue to be evaluated.
Are there certain people who cannot wear a mask?
Some people are unable to wear masks for various reasons. In some cases, these reasons may not be visible to others. We should always treat each other with kindness, respect and understanding.
Reasons people are unable to wear masks 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 indeed wear a mask safely)
What is a non-medical mask?
Non-medical masks can be homemade or commercial. Non-medical face masks should:
- Be made of 3 layers of tightly woven material fabric (such as cotton or linen); where possible, the (middle) layer should be a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene fabric*
- Be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaping
- Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops
- 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
Some masks include a pocket to accommodate a filter, for increased benefit.
If possible, use different fabrics for each side of the mask, so you know which side faces your mouth and which side is out.
*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.
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. Masks with exhalation valves are not recommended. 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.
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.