The Regional Municipality Of York

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Protect Yourself During COVID-19

You can protect yourself from COVID-19 by observing the following measures:

Practice physical distancing

Effective Friday, June 12, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., the province will increase the limit on social gatherings from five to 10 people across the province. Continue to practice physical distancing when gathering with individuals outside your immediate household or social circle.

  • Avoid non-essential trips in the community
  • Work from home where possible
  • Limit trips to the grocery store to once per week and limit the number of people you go with
  • Maintain at least 2-metres distance between yourself and others (outside of your immediate household)
  • Keep children away from group settings, including play dates
  • When going outside for a walk, bike ride, or to play, keep a 2-metre distance between yourself and others
  • Continue with essential medical appointments
  • If you cannot maintain physical distancing between yourself and others, you should wear a 2-layer non-medical mask or face covering

Social Circles

The Government of Ontario has encouraged Ontarians to establish “social circles” of no more than 10 people. Each circle will be able to come into close contact with one another, without having to worry about physical distancing.

Establishing social circles will help to ease the burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated health measures on York Region residents while minimizing the risk of virus transmission.  Social circles will help:

  • Support mental health and well-being and reduce social isolation
  • Provide options for individuals and families that may need to receive additional support from people outside their household   this includes child care and elder care
  • Provide guidance on how to expand social contact while still reducing risk
  • Facilitate rapid contact tracing by limiting the number of close contacts

The government of Ontario has provided five simple steps to create a social circle. 

Social circles are different than normal social gatherings. While social circles can disregard usual physical distancing practices, the same can’t be said for social gatherings.

If you are having a gathering with people outside of your social circle, it is important to practice proper hand hygiene, maintain physical distancing of 2-metres and to wear a 2-layer face covering if physical distancing is difficult. 

Individuals at a higher risk may wish to limit the size of their social circle, limit the amount of interaction or not participate at all.

Anyone feeling ill should immediately limit their contact with anyone in their circle and immediately seek assessment.

Practice good hand hygiene and respiratory (e.g., coughing and sneezing) etiquette

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often with soap and water for 20 seconds or alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Sneeze and cough into your sleeve or a tissue and wash your hands afterwards
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

Clean high-touch surfaces often

  • Increase cleaning and disinfection of high-touch surfaces like toys, phones, television remotes, toilets, sink tap handles, doorknobs and countertops using regular household cleaners
  • Avoid sharing toothbrushes, eating utensils, drinks, water bottles and towels

If you are over 70 years of age or immunocompromised

Self-isolate until further notice. Ask for help from family, friends or neighbours with essential errands or seek services over the phone or internet.

If you have returned from international travel, including the United States

Self-isolate for 14 days. Stay home and only leave your house if you need urgent medical attention. This means go straight home, do not stop for groceries and avoid close contact with others, even in your home.

This is a mandatory order from the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada has amended the emergency order under the Quarantine Act to mandate all who arrive in Canada by land sea or air, whether or not they have symptoms, to self-isolate or quarantine for 14 days. Returning travellers must demonstrate that they have an appropriate self-isolation plan with access to food and medication. People without an appropriate plan will have to self-isolate in a location selected by the Chief Public Health Officer, such as a hotel room, until their quarantine period is over. For more information, visit the Government of Canada COVID-19 webpage

If you have returned from travel and you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, have been exposed to a close contact with COVID-19, or are concerned about your own health, please visit Symptoms, Transmission, Treatment, and Testing to learn about next steps.

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health have advised against all non-essential travel. Visit for the latest travel advice.

Face Coverings and Face Masks

There are many types of masks available, ranging from cloth or material non-medical masks to N95 respirator masks. Each type of mask has its place, but not every mask is appropriate for day-to-day use.

Non-Medical Masks

Non-medical masks may include:

  • Those that are made from cloth (for example cotton)
  • Those that have pockets to insert filters
  • Those that are used to cover other masks or respirators to prolong their use

Wearing a non-medical mask is NOT a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health. Keeping a 2-metre distance is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. You should wear a face covering (non-medical mask such as a cloth mask or bandana) to reduce the spread of your own respiratory droplets to others in areas where physical distancing may be challenging such as: at the grocery store, pharmacy, or when taking public transit.

Wearing a mask adds an extra layer of protection: for others in case you have COVID-19 and for you in case others have COVID-19.

Singing, shouting, talking and breathing all create micro-droplets. If you have COVID-19 you may not know it, but your micro-droplets would be full of virus. Wearing a non-medical mask is something you do to protect others in case you have COVID-19 but don’t know it. It may also help protect you from others who have COVID-19. Wearing a mask is a good idea from all sides.

Remember when wearing any mask to still avoid touching your mask or your face.

For more information about non-medical masks, visit Health Canada's website About non-medical masks and face coverings.

Medical Masks

Medical masks and N95 respirators should not be worn by healthy community members. For health care workers looking for information on personal protective equipment, please refer to Public Health Ontario’s (PHO) Updated IPAC Recommendations for Use of Personal Protective Equipment for Care of Individuals with Suspect or Confirmed COVID-19.

Frequently Asked Questions about Face Masks

Why should I wear a non-medical mask?

If you are sick:

  • If you are coughing or sneezing, wear a non-medical mask to protect people around you from getting sick. This is very important if you go to an appointment, clinic, or a hospital. Do not go to other public places when you are sick, even if you are wearing a mask. If you are seeking medical care, an appropriate medical/surgical mask will be given to you. Follow the instructions given to you in the health care setting about how to remove and store your non-medical mask while you are there

If you are not sick and are going to a public place (e.g., grocery store or pharmacy):

  • If you are going to a place where physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain (such as the grocery store, pharmacy, or public transit), you should wear a non-medical mask or face covering as they may offer some additional protection to you and those around you

    If you are caring for someone who is sick:

    • If you are taking care of someone who is coughing or sneezing, particularly if they are unable to wear a mask, wear a non-medical mask when you are close to them. The person you are taking care of should also wear a non-medical mask
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    Who should NOT wear a non-medical mask?

    Non-medical cloth masks or face coverings should not be placed on:

    • Children under the age of 2
    • Anyone unable to remove the mask without help
    • Anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious
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    What should I avoid about non-medical masks?

    Non-medical masks should not:

    • Be made of plastic or other non-breathable materials
    • Be made of materials that easily fall apart, such as paper tissues
    • Be secured with tape or other similar materials
    • Be shared with others
    • Impair vision or interfere with tasks
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    Will a homemade mask protect me from COVID-19?

    Wearing a non-medical mask is NOT a replacement for physical distancing, hand washing, and monitoring your health. Keeping a 2-metre distance is important to help stop the spread of COVID-19. There are some things you must keep in mind when choosing to wear cloth face coverings:

    • They may not block ALL the virus particles that are spread when someone coughs or sneezes
    • They should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of your face, allowing you to breath easily and be secured with ties or ear loops
    • They should be able to withstand frequent cycles through washing and drying machines
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    What type of fabric or cloth do I use?

    • Use at least two layers of tight woven fabric. Cotton is the most widely used fabric. It is better if the thread count is higher. For example, 600-thread count pillowcases and cotton sheets, quilters cotton, and flannel work well
    • Use a combination of fabrics such as a high thread count cotton with silk, chiffon, or flannel
    • If possible, use different fabrics or colours for each side of the mask. This helps you to know which side faces your mouth and which side faces out
    • Insert a paper towel or disposable coffee filter, if your mask includes a pocket for more protection
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    What is the correct way to use a mask?

    • Wash your hands immediately before putting the mask on, immediately before adjusting it, immediately before taking it off, and immediately after taking it off. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to wash your hands
    • Make sure your mask completely and comfortably covers the nose and mouth without gaping and allows for easy breathing
    • Make sure your mask is secured to your head with ties or ear loops without the need to adjust frequently
    • Replace the mask as soon as it becomes damp or dirty, or if it has shrunk after washing and drying
    • Do not share your mask with others, even within your own household
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    When should I take off my mask?

    Ensure you wash your hands before and after removing your mask, or anytime you wish to adjust your mask without removing it. You should take off your mask when:

    • You are safely able to (when physical distancing can be maintained) and the mask can be placed in a lined garbage bin if it is not reusable, in a plastic bag for a short time while transporting it home, or directly into the washing machine
    • It becomes damp or dirty and you can exchange it for a new one if you are still in a situation where you need to wear a mask
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    Can I wear my non-medical mask all day?

    A mask can be worn all day as long as it does not become damaged, damp, or dirty. Remove your mask with clean hands when you are safely able to do so, and wash your hands with soap and water again after.

    It is important to note that:

    • Cloth or disposable masks can be re-used throughout the day if clean and intact – with clean hands, fold the mask in half so that the outer surface is inwards (so that the outer surface is not contacting anything during storage) and place it in a clean, sealable bag until ready to use it again the same day
    • A cloth mask should be placed directly into the washing machine. You can place a cloth mask in a plastic bag for a short time to transport it home to launder
    • A disposable mask should be removed and replaced if soiled, damaged, or hard to breathe through and should be discarded at the end of the day
    • Do not place your used mask into your pocket
    • Do not share your mask with others
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    How do I wash, re-use, and discard a non-medical mask?

    Wearing a mask can increase your risk of infection if you touch your face more frequently while readjusting it or if you do not wash your hands before putting it on and taking it off. All parts of non-medical masks can become contaminated by breathing or when touched by your hands.

    Cloth face masks become contaminated, especially when touched by your hands. When taking off a cloth mask or face covering, follow these steps:

    • After washing your hands, remove your mask by pulling the ties or ear loops away from your ears
    • Put the mask directly into the washing machine, or in a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine. Throw out the bag after you have used it to store used masks. If the bag is washable you can wash it with your mask. Wash your hands again after removing your mask
    • Wash mask with other laundry using a hot cycle. When hand wash masks, use laundry detergent and water as hot as you can stand, then dry thoroughly. Make sure to remove and discard filters before washing
    • When discarding damaged or worn out masks, drop them in a lined garbage bin
    • Do not leave any discarded masks in places where others can come in contact with them such as shopping carts, public seats, bus stops, or on the ground

    Continue physical distancing and wash your hands often.

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    How do I make a non-medical mask?

    There are different ways to make non-medical masks. Health Canada has provided instructions on how to make non-medical masks with sew or no-sew options and has included the types of material you can use to make the non-medical masks, such as cotton, t-shirts or bandanas.

    Visit Health Canada's website for instructions on how to make a non-medical mask.

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    Do I need to wear a mask if I am travelling?

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     Content for “Face Coverings and Face Masks” adapted with permission from Ottawa Public Health, 20/05/15.

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