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Facemasks will help protect you and those around you and are required in some settings.
Last updated: November 19, 2020 at 4:30 p.m.

Masks have a role to play in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Masks act as a barrier and help stop the spread of droplets from a person’s mouth and nose when talking, laughing, yelling, singing, coughing, or sneezing.

Wearing a mask should be combined with other important protective measures such as frequent hand washing and physical distancing. A mask is not enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its own.

The information on this page is for the public. Health care professionals should refer to information about personal protective equipment for health care settings.

In this section

  1. When to wear a mask
  2. How to wear a mask
  3. Types of masks
  4. Cleaning and disposing of masks

When to wear a mask

COVID-19 is spread through infected droplets from a person’s mouth or nose. Some people can spread the virus when they have very mild symptoms or may not know that they have COVID-19.

  • Wearing a non-medical, cloth mask, is now required in all indoor public spaces, such as shopping malls, grocery stores, community centres and on public transportation. It is required in retail settings and restaurants except while eating or drinking. This requirement applies to both staff and customers in these settings. 
  • Masks are also required in workplaces in common areas like elevators, hallways and washrooms. Employees may not need to wear a mask in their offices or cubicle if there is a physical barrier like plexiglass in place. Your individual workplace may have further mask requirements that you should follow.
  • People who cannot wear a mask or who cannot put on or remove a mask on their own are exempt. 
  • Non-medical masks may not be required where COVID-19 safety plans and measures like cohorts and health checks are in use such as in classrooms. 
  • If you are sick and cannot distance from others at home, a mask should be worn. Learn more about the precautions you should take if you are sick.
  • Wear a medical mask if you are caring for a person with symptoms of COVID-19. This is particularly important if you will be in direct contact with a sick person’s droplets, saliva or other bodily fluids. For more information see the guide for caregivers and household members of those with COVID.
  • Wearing a medical mask is required for patients, clients and visitors to most health care facilities. Medical masks are usually provided if you don’t have your own.
  • Do not put a face mask or any covering including visors and eye protection on infants under two years of age. A facemask or covering will make it difficult for a baby to breathe because their airways are still small. There is also a risk that parts of the facemask, visor or eye protection can come off and become a choking hazard. See information about keeping your baby safe during COVID-19 from Perinatal Services BC.

How to wear a mask

A properly fitted mask sits closely over the mouth, nose, cheeks and chin of the person wearing it.

  • It is important to make sure the mask can be held in place comfortably with ties or ear loops to reduce the need to adjust the mask. If it is not comfortable, you won’t want to wear it consistently.
  • Masks should only be used by one person and should never be shared.

Please see the How to wear a facemask poster for information on how to properly put on and take off a face mask or watch the video:


Types of masks

Homemade masks

If you are making a mask, here is some information to help make an effective mask:

  • Homemade masks can be made from different materials, but some materials are better than others. Use clean 100% cotton, polyester or a cotton-polyester blend.
  • Homemade masks should have at least three layers to make sure that droplets don’t pass through the fabric. The most important thing is having these three layers with a mask that fits well.

Here are some instructions on how to make cloth masks: Non-medical masks and face coverings: Sew and no-sew instructions

Cleaning and disposing of masks

Medical masks should not be cleaned and reused because putting them in the washing machine may damage the protective layers, reducing their effectiveness. All masks should be changed frequently. Fabric masks should be cleaned frequently. If a mask is wet or visibly dirty it should be thrown-out or cleaned. A wet mask should not be used for an extended period of time.

To dispose of medical masks after use:

  • Wash or sanitize your hands before taking your mask off.
  • Put the used masks in a garbage bin. Do not litter.
  • After taking off your mask, wash or sanitize your hands again.
  • When emptying garbage bins, don’t touch used masks or tissues with your hands. All waste can go into regular garbage bins.

Homemade or cloth masks should be cleaned and changed often:

  • To clean a homemade cloth mask, wash it using the directions on the original material. You can wash by hand or in a washing machine. Warmer water is better.  Dry the mask completely.
  • If dirty cloth masks have been in contact with someone who is sick they can still be washed with other people’s laundry.
  • Any damage, fabric break down or change in fit will reduce the protection of cloth masks.
SOURCE: Masks ( )
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