As N.L.'s mandatory mask order takes effect, here are a few tips to get used to wearing one

With masks now required for most people in most indoor situations, a St. John's psychologist gives some advice on how to deal with the big change.

Most people, in most indoor public places, must now wear a non-medical mask

a blue face mask
Non-medical masks are mandatory in indoor public places for everyone over the age of five in Newfoundland and Labrador as of Monday. (narongpon chaibot/Shutterstock)

Masks are now mandatory in most indoor public spaces for most people in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The order applies to everyone over the age of five, with a few exceptions for people with physical or mental health conditions which prevent them from wearing one. 

With only sporadic, travel-related cases of COVID-19 in the province for months, mask-wearing has not been widespread in the general public prior to the order, which was announced Aug. 17, coinciding with the unveiling of the back-to-school plan for the English school district that will see many students and staff having to wear masks daily.

"It is a big change. For some people it's going to be a small adaptation, but for others, this is huge," said Dr. Janine Hubbard, a St. John's based-psychologist.

Getting used to wearing masks, Hubbard said, is about combining a positive attitude of knowing masks are meant to keep people safe, with a little private practice before heading out into the world with one on.

"Like all behavioural change, absolutely, it's the mindset. And then practice," she said.

"Practise wearing one at home, for say, 10, 15, minutes at a time. Do it while you're doing something fun," she said, such as watching a favourite TV show or another distracting activity.

Anyone shopping in the province must now wear a mask, as well as anyone serving them. (The Canadian Press)

Some people, particularly those who deal with anxiety or claustrophobia, may need more practice than most, Hubbard said.

She recommended taking time to sit with a mask on and meditate or work on other mindfulness techniques — "to make you feel less overwhelmed and less panicked," she said — and give yourself time to build up to longer stretches of mask-wearing.

Kids and creativity

As many adults start to wear one regularly for the first time, they also face the challenge of getting kids to keep them on.

"Kids are going to follow your example. If you're negative and critical about the mask-wearing experience, they're not going to buy into it," she told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning.

Talk to kids in age-appropriate language about why masks are needed, and then combine a sense of control with fun — let them pick out their own colour, pattern, or even decorate masks themselves.

"It's a chance to be creative and have a little bit of fun,": she said, adding that goes for adults too, who could choose to show off their favourite sports team or turn it into a fashion accessory.

If kids are still showing resistance, Hubbard said, it's worth letting them wear a mask during a coveted activity such as playing video games — "amazingly, you may find that kids are embracing it," she said.

Psychologist Janine Hubbard says to get kids used to wearing masks, let them play video games or another fun activity while wearing one. (Submitted by Janine Hubbard)

While it is a massive behavioural shift for society and will take time, Hubbard pointed out that seatbelt-wearing went through similar growing pains when they became required by law.

"It felt very strange at first, and today we wouldn't blink about travelling in a motor vehicle without them. We'll get there; just have some patience and tolerance, and try to have some fun with it if you can," she said.

The full list

The places were people must now wear a non-medical mask covers a wide swath of settings across the province, such as:

  • Public transit, including buses, taxis, car services and public areas of ferries.
  • Retail stores and businesses.
  • Common areas of an office building, including lobbies, elevators, conference, washrooms and break rooms.
  • Places where municipal services are offered.
  • Personal-care businesses, including hair salons, tattoo parlors and tanning salons.
  • Animal daycare and grooming businesses.
  • Shopping malls and community markets.
  • Places of worship.
  • Funeral homes.
  • Theatres, performing arts venues, cinemas and indoor entertainment businesses.
  • Rental rooms, community centres and other venues used to host gatherings.
  • Sports-related clubhouses.
  • Community museums or historic sites.
  • Bingo halls.
  • Fitness centres, dance studios or yoga studios.
  • Arenas and places where sports are practised.
  • Restaurants and bars.
  • Common areas, including elevators, in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, rental cabins or cottages.
  • High school and junior high school common areas, such as hallways.
  • Post-secondary schools, including colleges, universities and trade schools.
Servers must wear masks throughout their work shifts, but people eating in restaurants may take theirs off while seated at their table. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A few exemptions

People can take masks off off during some treatments or services, such as when they're in the dentist's chair or getting facial treatments at a spa. People will be allowed to remove masks when showing identification.

People going to the gym, or a fitness studio, must wear a mask until their workout starts, and put it back on immediately after.

Some workplaces will not require masks while in cubicles or offices, but masks must still be worn in common areas, such as lobbies, elevators and conference rooms.

Seated areas in classrooms at schools, places of worship, restaurants, food courts and bars or entertainment venues will also not require a mask, as long as people observe two metres of physical distancing. But people must wear masks while moving around those spaces, such as when they go to the washroom. 

As of Monday morning, the province had no known cases of COVID-19.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning