Non-medical masks will become mandatory in most indoor public places in Nova Scotia on July 31.
The province's chief medical officer of health said the move is aimed at minimizing the impact of a second wave of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia.
"It is our best chance to keep our communities and economy as open as possible as we move into the fall and a possible second wave," Dr. Robert Strang explained at a Friday news conference. "Non-medical masks reduce your risk of COVID-19, but most importantly, they substantially reduce the risk of you passing your infection onto somebody else."
"So if everyone who can wear a medical mask in indoor public places and public transportation does so, we will keep each other safe."
Children under two will be exempt, along with kids between ages two and four when their caregiver cannot get them to wear one.
Those with a valid medical reason for not wearing a mask are also exempt.
People are expected to have their own masks, but the government will help with initial supplies for those who cannot bring their own.
Strang described indoor public places as spots, either privately or publicly owned, that are fully accessible to the general public.
- retail businesses
- shopping centres
- personal services businesses such as hair and nail salons, spas, body art facilities, except during services that require removing a mask
- restaurants and bars, except while people are eating or drinking
- places of worship or faith gatherings
- places for cultural or entertainment services or activities such as movie theatres, concerts and other performances
- places for sports and recreational activities such as a gym, pool or indoor tennis facility, except while doing an activity where a mask cannot be worn
- places for events such as conferences and receptions
- municipal or provincial government locations offering services to the public
- common areas of tourist accommodations such as lobbies, elevators and hallways
- common areas of office buildings such as lobbies, elevators and hallways, but not private offices
- public areas of a university or college campus, such as library or student union building, but not classrooms, labs, offices or residences
- train or bus stations, ferry terminals and airports
When it comes to restaurants, Strang said masks must be worn when entering and leaving the business, waiting for a table and when using the restroom.
He said, although the face coverings are required in lobbies, elevators and hallways of office buildings and tourist attractions, they aren't necessary for condo and apartment buildings, "because those are considered private spaces."
"Masks will not be required in a courtroom, but will be required in common areas outside the actual courtroom," Strang added.
Government officials are able to ask someone to remove their masks for identification purposes. Strang cited getting a driver's licence photo as an example.
There are also a couple of exceptions for ceremonial reasons, such as taking communion or when getting married.
"If you're getting a personal service or treatment that requires removing your mask, such as a beard trim or some kind of a facial treatment, you can remove the mask, but you must then put it back on as soon as that service or treatment is done," Strang said.
Private businesses not included in the mandatory mask policy have the ability to require them if they want to.
Businesses will have the right to refuse entry and refuse service to those not wearing a mask, "but always with the allowances for small number of people with the valid reasons for not wearing a mask," said Strang.
Non-medical masks are already required on public transit in Nova Scotia, for both drivers and passengers.
This includes municipal transit buses and ferries, school buses, community transit vehicles and private taxis and shuttles.
"Let's all make wearing a mask a habit," suggested Strang. "When you grab your keys to leave home, grab your mask as well."
"I know there's a long list of places to remember, but all you really have to remember is this, when in doubt, wear a mask."