Mandatory masking

Mandatory masking in the NWT

Wearing face masks in indoor public spaces is currently mandatory in the NWT. This Public Health Order is expected to remain in place during the winter of 2021/2022 in order to offer more protection from COVID-19 when people spend more time indoors for prolonged periods.

The following are exceptions:

  • Children under two years of age
  • Children two years of age or older but less than ten years of age who is unable to tolerate wearing a face mask
  • People unable to put on or remove their face mask without assistance
  • People unable to wear a face mask due to a medical reason
  • People providing or receiving care or assistance, where a face mask would interfere with that care or assistance
  • People who do not wear a face mask as a result of an emergency
  • People who remove their face mask temporarily for identification purposes
  • People otherwise approved by the Chief Public Health Officer as not required to wear a mask

Why wearing a mask continues to be important?

It’s important to continue practicing all public health measures including individual measures, such as wearing a mask. This is because:

  • as it gets colder and when more of our activities move indoors, we may come into closer contact with others outside of our household
  • When layered with other recommended public health measures, a well-constructed, well-fitting and properly worn mask can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Masks help contain your respiratory particles and prevent or reduce the amount of infectious respiratory particles you inhale particularly when wearing a well-contracted, well-fitting mask

Different types of masks are available for public use

Non-medical masks or medical masks and respirators can be used for different reasons and for people with different types of risks. Please note that for public use a respirator doesn’t need formal fit testing.

Medical masks and Respirators

In general, while non-medical masks can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, medical masks and respirators provide better protection. They are also now recommended for the following situations:

  • Anyone who has tested positive for or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • People caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • People who live in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19
  • People who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19
  • People who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation

Medical masks and respirators sold in Canada are required to meet established standards for filtration, breathability and fluid resistance.

When used in occupational settings workers are sometimes required to have these masks formally fitted. However, when used to stop the spread of COVID-19 in community setting being fitted for this kind of mask is not a requirement.

Don’t use masks or respirators with exhalation valves. These valves allow infectious respiratory particles to escape. They do not help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Non-medical masks

Non-medical masks are very common. They are the types of masks that can either purchased or homemade. Non-medical masks are not regulated so it is important to understand how they work best. Non-medical masks should:

  • Fit well
    • Large enough to cover the nose, mouth and chin without gaps and not allow air to escape from edges
    • Fit securely to the head with ties, bands, or ear loops
    • Be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
    • Maintain its shape after washing and drying (for non-medical masks only)
  • Have multiple layers
  • Two layers of breathable, tightly woven fabric, such as cotton and an effective middle filter layer


Face coverings that aren't recommended include Face shields, neck gaiters (neck warmers), scarves and bandanas.

Proper use and care

No matter which type of mask you choose, proper fit is a key factor in its effectiveness. To help prevent you and others from being exposed to COVID-19, make sure whatever mask or respirator you choose is:

  • Well-constructed
  • Fits well: fit varies depending on the shape and style of the mask. The fit can be improved by using different methods, such as adjusting ties, bands or ear loops and flexible nosepiece
  • Worn properly

To make mask use as effective as possible, it’s essential to make sure you’re using and storing your masks properly. All disposable masks are typically sold as single-use, but they can be reused until visibly dirty, damp, or damaged. They should not be cleaned because it will damage the protective layers and reduce their effectiveness.

Wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you:

  • adjust your mask
  • put your mask on
  • take your mask off

It's important to keep your mask clean when not in use, or when eating or drinking.

Do not hang the mask from your ears or place it under your chin. Store it in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again.

Properly clean and disinfect any items that improve mask fit, like braces and mask fitters.

Discard disposable masks and filters properly in a garbage container. For more information please see federal government masking guidance: