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Three things you need to know about changes to the Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law

August 27, 2020
Feature Stories

Back in July, City Council passed a temporary by-law to make masks mandatory in all enclosed public spaces. Many residents have embraced the move, but COVID-19 is still out there. With schools, businesses and services continuing to reopen, it’s crucial we all continue to do our part to reduce the spread.

Council made a number of changes to the mask by-law yesterday to make it even more effective. Here’s what’s changing and why:

  1. The by-law is extended until October 31

Around mid-July, the number of people diagnosed with COVID-19 in Ottawa started to rise. Trends in hospitalization also increased, and recently there have been outbreaks in childcare centres and workplaces.

The Temporary Mandatory Mask By-law is important for controlling the spread of COVID-19. Extending it into the fall will help limit the risks of infection while we build on our progress in reopening our economy. The City will review the by-law every two months or so and might extend it further based on the status of the pandemic.

The by-law still exempts young children and anyone with a disability or a medical condition such as breathing or cognitive difficulties that prevent them from wearing a mask safely. Anyone who is unable to put on or remove a mask without assistance is also exempt. Proof of an exemption is still not required.

The by-law will be updated to reflect that masks must be worn while in vehicles for hire, such as taxis, limousines and private transportation company vehicles. This amendment aligns Ottawa’s by-law with Ottawa Public Health’s letter of instruction to businesses issued on Monday, July 6.

  1. Mandatory mask zones may be established

Over the spring and summer, there have simply been too many large gatherings across Ottawa where residents were not wearing masks or maintaining a two-metre physical distance. Such gatherings present a high risk for virus transmission.

If such large gatherings continue in a specific area, the City can now establish a mandatory mask zone. Residents and visitors would be required to wear masks in any indoor or outdoor public spaces within the zone. The City could also establish rules whereby the zone would only be in effect on specific days of the week or during specific hours of the day.

Businesses are still in the process of reopening, including outdoor patios. The ability to establish mandatory mask zones, if necessary, will help us create a safe environment for residents to socialize and enjoy the outdoors while the weather is still on our side.

A young woman with auburn hair wearing a black mask busses tables at an outdoor patio.

To determine whether a mandatory mask zone should be put in place, the City will consider:

  • Confirmation from Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health that it is a necessary public health and safety measure
  • The number of incidents of high-risk behaviour, such as not wearing masks and not physically distancing while in a crowded area
  • The size and dimensions of the area in question, and whether the public is able to maintain physical distance

If a mandatory mask zone is established, the City will notify residents and businesses 24 to 48 hours ahead of time.

Mandatory mask zones are not intended as a long-term solution. They would expire no more than 60 days after being enacted, depending on the circumstances.

  1. Masks are now mandatory in enclosed common areas within an apartment or condo building

Residents and building operators have been reporting that masking has not been widely adopted in the common areas of apartment buildings and condos. This puts residents at risk, particularly those who are among the most vulnerable of the city’s population.

Condo and apartment building operators are now required to post prominent, clear signs with specific messaging about the by-law at all building entrances. By-law posters with prescribed messaging are available for printing. Building operators must also ensure alcohol-based hand rub is available at all entrances.

About masks

Masks should be used in addition to other protective measures, such as physical distancing, hand washing, not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands, and staying home if you are sick.

Find out more about the use of masks in public spaces, including an FAQ and more details about who is not required to wear a mask or face covering.

Find out how to properly wear a mask, and where to purchase a mask at

So much is uncertain in this time of COVID-19, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the unknowns. What we do know for sure is that wearing masks helps to reduce the spread of this virus. Please do everything you can to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our community. We will get through this pandemic by caring for our neighbours and looking out for each other.

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