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COVID-19

Operating your Business Safely

Ontario entered Step 1 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen on Friday June 11, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.. We will remain in Step 1 for at least 21 days to allow the province to evaluate any impacts on key public health and health system indicators.

More information on the public health and workplace safety measures in place can be found on the province’s website and in O. Reg 82/20: Rules for Areas in Shutdown Zone and at Step 1 under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (ROA), 2020

SMDHU and local municipalities may also implement local public health directions, bylaws, and policies that can exceed the provincial laws and recommendations. As such the regulatory requirements outlined in the amended ROA and associated regulations are supported by the letter of instructions to persons responsible for a business or organization in the municipalities in the County of Simcoe, the District of Muskoka, and the Cities of Orillia and Barrie (amended March 11, 2021) , developed under SMDHU’s medical officer of health. Employers should continue to consult with public health and their local municipality to ensure familiarity with current laws and recommendations. Simcoe and Muskoka businesses are encouraged to remain vigilant in their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

The information and resources on this page are updated regularly. Check back often for the newest updates.

The province's Stop the Spread Business Information Line is available at 1-888-444-3659 to answer questions from businesses regarding COVID-19 emergency measures.

All businesses that may open shall prepare and make available a safety plan. The safety plan shall describe the measures and procedures that have been implemented in the business to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19. The safety plan shall include screening, physical distancing, mask/face covering requirements, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects procedures, and the wearing of personal protective equipment measures. The safety plan shall be in writing and be made available to any person for review on request. The person responsible for the business shall ensure that a copy of the safety plan is posted in a conspicuous place where it is most likely to come to the attention of individuals working in or attending the business. More details are provided in O. Reg 82/20.

There are several resources that provide guidance on the actions employers can implement as we adapt to operating during COVID-19:

The province has also provided guidance to support employers on planning for and supporting workers who have recently received a COVID-19 vaccine, including direction related to COVID-19 workplace screening for workers experiencing post-vaccine symptoms: 

Order PPE
If you need personal protective equipment, you can use the province’s Workplace PPE Supplier Directory to identify companies that sell PPE and other supplies to keep employees and customers safe from COVID-19.

Donate PPE
All donated products must meet Health Canada guidelines. You may donate directly to your local municipality, hospitals, primary care clinics, long-term care homes, or shelters.

Pandemic PPE Transitional Support for Eligible Sectors
If you represent an eligible sector and require critical PPE supplies, you can use the Ontario Health (Central) Online PPE and Swab Kit Intake Form to request supplies.

Owners or operators of all businesses, organizations and public transit services in Simcoe and Muskoka must have policies in place to restrict people from entering if they are not wearing a mask or face covering.

Best efforts shall be made to only allow entry to customers wearing a mask or face covering. The mask or face covering must be worn inside the business or organization at all times, unless it is reasonably required to temporarily remove the face covering for services provided (such as eating or drinking). Exemptions apply as per The Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act and associated regulations. Masks or face coverings are recommended in outdoor environments are recommended when physical distancing cannot take place. For the purposes of businesses or organizations that generate line-ups to enter the establishments, masks/face coverings are required.

Regarding signage, we only ask that you post appropriate visible signage indicating that masks or face coverings are required inside the business or organization. Sample signage can be found at the bottom of this page under Public Signage.

These instructions were issued under the authority of the provincial Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to ramp up efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

If you have questions about impacts to your business call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

If you are an employee who has concerns about your health and safety that your employer is not addressing, you can file a complaint with the Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

The Province of Ontario is actively rolling out the Rapid Antigen Screening Program which involves the distribution of rapid antigen tests. This is NOT being coordinated by local public health departments.

  • Antigen testing does not replace public health and safety measures, including infection prevention and control protocols (e.g. hand washing, PPE, physician distancing, staying home while ill etc.)
  • Antigen tests are an added layer of screening and are only to be used on asymptomatic individuals after they have passed the usual screening questions
  • Antigen tests are not to be used in an outbreak. 
  • Antigen test kits are screening tools only and they are NOT a diagnostic tool. Any individual who receives a preliminary positive result on an antigen test must seek a confirmatory, lab-based PCR test within 24 hours and self-isolate until the results of the PCR test are known 
  • False negative and false positive results can occur with rapid antigen tests, and at a higher frequency than lab-based PCR tests. 
  • For those with a negative result, it should be reinforced that an antigen point-of-care test result could be negative, when in fact the individual may be positive for COVID-19 (i.e. a false negative result). Individuals with a negative test result should continue to follow all public health measures, including mask wearing, social distancing, hand hygiene, and staying home if they are sick.  
  • If businesses are participation in the rapid antigen testing program, we encourage businesses to report positive results. To report to SMDHU, please fax the COVID-19 reporting form to 705-733-7738 indicating the type of test conducted and that the result is positive or call 705-721-7520 ext. 8809
  • More information on the Provincial Antigen Testing Program can be found on the Province’s website

While no specific protocols are in place for businesses that require staff housing, there is enough information in existing protocols for other sectors to guide recommendations for best practices in staff housing settings. The guidance documents for Temporary Foreign Worker accommodations and the Tourism and Hospitality sector provide a good foundation for determining appropriate prevention practices within staff housing.

At a minimum, the following precautions should be in place for businesses with staff housing:

Screening: Passive screening (posting signs) and active screening (asking employees to self-monitor for symptoms of respiratory illness).

Policies for when someone is ill: The employer must have plans in place if a worker fails the health screening, including how to access COVID-19 testing and how to isolate symptomatic workers from others.

Environmental cleaning: Provide employees in staff housing with supplies to clean and disinfect their housing and encourage regular cleaning and disinfection of shared areas and frequently touched surfaces.

Physical distancing and cohorting: Limit the number of employees in staff housing to allow them to maintain physical distancing and provide a minimum of 2 metres (6 feet) between beds and furniture in common areas. Encourage employees sharing staff accommodation to maintain physical distance from others and use masks/face coverings when physical distancing is not possible. Discourage shared meals and meal preparation and keep working groups together during on and offsite activities to limit transmission.

Educate employees to protect themselves and others:

  • Practice good hand hygiene: wash with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer 
  • Practice respiratory etiquette by sneezing and coughing into your sleeve
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

The health unit and the The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development have roles and responsibilities for protecting public health and worker safety. COVID-19 is a reportable disease in Ontario and all cases are reported to local public health for investigation. Public health staff provide case investigation and management and follow up with tracing of contact. Public health also provides outbreak management support for a variety of settings. Workplace illnesses and injuries must be reported to The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development . Depending on setting-specific arrangements staff housing may be considered part of the workplace. Complaints or concerns about COVID-19 practices in various settings can be reported to us by calling Health Connection 705-721-7520 (1-877-721-7520) or by filling out the online form.

Under Step 1, curling clubs must be closed.

 Under Step 1, day camps are permitted to operate in the following venues:

  • Meeting or event space; 
  • Community centre or multi-purpose recreational centre; 
  • Public library; 
  • School or private school.

According to the Child Care and Early Years Act, day camps must: 

  • not operate for more than 13 weeks in a calendar year (subject to certain exceptions set out in regulations); 
  • not operate on days in which instruction is typically provided for pupils enrolled in schools; 
  • not operate at a person’s home; 
  • be operated for children who are four years old or older, or, if the camp is operated on or after September 1, for children who will attain the age of four in that calendar year.

Updated guidance from the province is now available: COVID 19 Safety Guidelines for Day Camps (revised May 26, 2021). Public Health Ontario has also released two checklists to support COVID-19 preparedness and prevention in day camps: Pre-Camp Planning checklist (revised May 31, 2021) and Daily Operations checklist (revised May 31, 2021).

For additional information, see SMDHU’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Day Camps - Step 1 (revised June 15, 2021).

With many buildings either closed or experiencing lower occupancy as a result of COVID-19, many properties have used less water and increased the amount of water stagnation in plumbing systems. It is important for business owners to flush both cold and hot water lines, and drain hot water tanks to remove stagnant water from their building’s plumbing system.

If you are reopening your business you need to sample the private drinking water supply at a commercial licensed laboratory ahead of reopening.  

For more information and resources for your business visit the small drinking water systems section of our website as well as the General guidance for water utilities when reopening buildings.

Large employers, such as those in the manufacturing sector have several risks associated with their operations. These settings, where a large congregation of employees interact and work collectively on tasks provide ideal locations for viral transmission, in particular where employees work within a 2 metre range.

In addition to the sector specific guidelines provided by the Province, we recommend the practice of cohorting staff. ‘Cohorting’ or ‘bubbling’ refers to the act of ensuring that staff that work together performing similar tasks remain as a ‘bubble’ or team during breaks (i.e. lunch), meetings, and when entering/leaving the facility where possible limiting interaction with others. The act of cohorting limits contact with employees in the organization outside of the ‘bubble’, which in the event of a positive COVID-19 case within the bubble, limits the potential spread of the virus to more people than necessary. This is advantageous since the employer limits the number of ‘close contacts’ that would be required to isolate (and therefore not be permitted to work) and more importantly, limit a large-scale outbreak in the facility.

May 19, 2020 - Letter for large employers

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has identified, based on data available, that there is a high risk of spread of COVID-19 within agricultural farms in Simcoe County and The District of Muskoka. To protect the health of temporary foreign workers SMDHU has issued a local Section 22 Class Order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The Section 22 Class Order requires that all owners and operators of farms in the region who employ farm workers, including Temporary Foreign Workers (TFW), local workers and temporary help agency workers, take actions to protect their labour force. The Order issued March 24, 2021 replaces the order issued June 24, 2020.

The following public health guidance and resources support employers of temporary foreign farm workers in Ontario to effectively respond to COVID-19 and protect these workers from becoming ill:

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Food Premises  (Revised June 15, 2021) provides guidance and clarity for food premises by following following O.Reg 82/20.

For more information and resources for your business visit the food services section of our website.

Under Step 1, indoor gatherings are still prohibited. You are not allowed to gather indoors with anyone you do not live with, except for one other person from outside of the household who lives alone or is a caregiver for any member of your household.

Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events of up to 10 people are permitted in Step 1. This includes outdoor social gatherings associated with a wedding, funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony. Masks or face coverings should be worn if physical distancing of at least 2 metres (6 feet) cannot be maintained outdoors with an individual from outside your household.

 More information is provided in COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Indoor and Outdoor Events and Gatherings – Step 1 (revised June 15, 2021).

 

Landlords, and property managers play an important role by taking the necessary precautions to prevent and limit the spread of COVID-19 in condominiums, apartment buildings, and other residential units.

  • Although multi-dwelling units are typically restricted to the public without approved entry, the general public can enter such common spaces when going to a residence/room within the location. Therefore, masks/face coverings are required in common areas (e.g. elevators, reception areas) as these areas may not permit physical distancing to take place. 
  • Limit the number of people that gather in shared spaces to ensure a distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others where ever possible ( e.g. lobbies, hallways, mail rooms, laundry rooms).
  • Remind residents that gatherings with people outside of their household are not permitted indoors, with outdoor gatherings restricted to 10 persons.
  • Consider removing frequently touched items (e.g. decorative objects and non-essential furniture) from shared spaces that may be difficult to clean and disinfect.
  • Increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfection of commonly touched surfaces in the building to at least twice a day. Further:
  • It is strongly recommended that the surfaces and objects are first cleaned and then disinfected.
  • Some areas to focus on are laundry room appliances (e.g. washers, dryers, baskets and counters), door handles, light switches, mailboxes, stairwell railings, elevator buttons, and buzzer systems.
  • Commonly used cleaners and disinfectants are effective against COVID-19 but it is recommended that disinfectants contain an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN) which indicates that the product has been approved for use in Canada.
  • Anyone recently returning from international travel MUST self-isolate for 14 days in their unit and use delivery options if they need food, groceries, or other supplies. This is mandatory.
  • Service HVAC systems regularly to ensure optimal performance through a licensed service HVAC technician.

Resources for school and childcare administrators/educators/employees are available here

For the purposes of operating, child care operators are directed to the Ministry of Education Guideline as well as the SMDHU Guidance Document for Licensed Childcare Settings (revised March 11, 2021)

Additional resources:

For more information and resources for your business visit the child care operators section of our website.

Marinas and boat launches can be utilized for recreational purposes.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Marinas and Boat Clubs (revised June 11, 2021) provides guidance and clarity for marinas, boat clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities.

Under Step 1, the following outdoor recreational amenities are permitted to be open under Schedule 8 of Ontario Regulation 82/20. If the amenity is not listed below it is not permitted to open.

  • Parks and recreational areas
  • Baseball diamonds
  • Batting cages
  • Soccer, football and sports fields
  • Tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts
  • Basketball courts
  • BMX parks
  • Skate parks
  • Golf courses and driving ranges
  • Frisbee golf locations
  • Cycling tracks
  • Trails
  • Horse riding facilities
  • Shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs
  • Playgrounds
  • Portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
  • Archery ranges
  • Boat and watercraft launches
  • Horseshoe pits 
  • Outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, whirlpools, wading pools and water slides

The above outdoor recreational amenities may open only if:

  • any person who enters or uses the amenity maintains a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from any other person who is using the amenity (unless the members of the group are all members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone or is a caregiver for any member of the household);
  • any person engaging in physical exercise in the amenity, including by engaging in a training session, permitted sport or game (e.g. horseshoe, bocce, archery), must maintain a physical distance of at least 3 metres from any other person who is using the amenity; 
  • other sports or games that are likely to result in individuals coming within 2 metres (6 feet) of each other are not practised or played; 
  • team sports are not practised or played with the exception of training sessions for members of a sports team that do not include games or scrimmage games. No more than 10 people may gather for a training session; 
  • more than one group of up to 10 people may gather for a team training session on a baseball diamond, sports field (including football and soccer) and basketball court as long as the groups maintain constant separation that is clear and identifiable; 
  • clubhouses on the premises must be closed, except to the extent that they are used in conjunction with an outdoor pool, splash pad, spray pad, whirlpool, wading pool or water slide, or provide access to equipment storage, a washroom or a portion of the amenity that is used to provide first aid.

Businesses that provide in-person teaching and instruction

Businesses that provide in-person teaching and instruction may operate at an outdoor recreational amenity if they meet the following conditions: 

  • The instructional space for the in-person teaching and instruction must be outdoors. 
  • Students must be actively screened in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health before attending the instruction. 
  • Students must maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from every other person in the instructional space, except where necessary for teaching and instruction that cannot be effectively provided if physical distancing is maintained. 
  • The total number of students permitted to be in each instructional space at any one time must be limited to 10 persons which does not include the business’s employees, coaches, officials, or trainers. 
  • In the event of more than one instructional space at an outdoor recreational amenity the groups must maintain constant separation that is clear and identifiable. 
  • If the in-person teaching or instruction involves singing or the playing of brass or wind instruments,
    o every person who is singing or playing must be separated from every other person by Plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier, or
    o every person in the instructional space must remain at least 3 metres apart from every other person in the instructional space.

The person responsible for the business shall also:

  • record the name and contact information of every student who attends the in-person teaching and instruction;
  • maintain the records for a period of at least one month; and 
  • only disclose the records to a medical officer of health or an inspector

Masks and Face Coverings

Persons attending outdoor recreational amenities must abide by the above physical distancing regulations. If a person is not able to maintain physical distancing at an outdoor recreational amenity, the person shall wear a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose and chin unless the person is subject to an exception precluding them from wearing a mask or face covering.

Cleaning Requirements

The person responsible for an outdoor recreational amenity that is open shall ensure that:

  • any washrooms or similar amenities made available to the public are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition as per the provincial guidance document Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings; and 
  • any equipment that is rented to, provided to or provided for the use of members of the public must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.

Under Step 1,all personal services settings are closed. This includes, but is not limited to hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours and esthetics.

Premises that provide access to sensory deprivation pods that are being used for therapeutic purposes prescribed or administered by a regulated health professional are permitted to open if they comply with the following conditions: 

  • services are by appointment only; 
  • clients can only be in the premises for the duration of their services; 
  • the total number of clients permitted indoors must be limited to the number that can maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) from each other and cannot exceed 5 clients or 25% of the premises’ capacity, whichever is lower.

Under Step 1, recreational (overnight) camps are not permitted to operate.

A recreational camp is defined as “a camp for recreational activities on a site in which sleeping and eating facilities are provided for temporary occupancy, with or without charge, for five or more persons who are under eighteen years of age or persons who have special needs" (O.Reg. 503/17).

Any alternative operational models proposed at recreational camp facilities must be reviewed by SMDHU and the local municipality. You should also discuss your plans with your MECP Drinking Water Inspector.

To support planning for return to operation, please reference the following resources:

The guidance and resources provided in the following sections of this webpage may also be applicable to your planning:

  • Resources for all employers and workplaces 
  • Mandatory face covering in indoor public spaces 
  • Businesses that provide staff housing 
  • Drinking water systems 
  • Public signage

Under Step 1, indoor recreational water facilities are closed to the public. This includes pools and whirlpools/spas (spa), waterparks, float parks, wave pools, steam rooms, and saunas. Some exceptions apply as outlined further in O.Reg 82/20.

Outdoor pools, wading pools, whirlpools, water slide and spray and splash pads are permitted to open following an opening inspection from a public health inspector.

More information about operating outdoor recreational water facilities in Step 1 is provided in COVID-19 Guidance for Outdoor Recreational Water Facilities (revised June 11, 2021).

Under Step 1, public health and workplace safety measures for essential and non-essential retail include, but are not limited to:

Non-essential retail: permitted to be open for in-person retail sales to the public at 15% capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold.

  • 15% capacity is determined by taking the total square metres of floor area accessible to the public in the business or facility, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 26.67 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.

Essential retail, including discount and big box stores:

  • Permitted to be open for in-person retail sales to the public at 25% capacity, with no restrictions on the goods that can be sold.
    a. Twenty-five percent capacity is determined by taking the total square metres of floor area accessible to the public in the business or facility, not including shelving and store fixtures, dividing that number by 16 and rounding the result down to the nearest whole number.
  • Essential retail is limited to:
    o Supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, indoor farmers’ markets and other stores that primarily sell food.
    o Pharmacies.
    o Discount and big box retailers selling groceries.
    o Safety supply stores.
    o Businesses that primarily sell, rent, or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies.
    o Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public.
    o Retail stores operated by telecommunications providers.
    o Stores that sell liquor, including beer, wine, and spirits.
    o Outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries.
    o Indoor greenhouses.

Shopping malls:

  • Non-essential retail stores in shopping malls are closed unless the store has a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk.

Essential retail stores (as above) are permitted to be open.

Shopping malls must also adhere to the following regulated public health requirements:
1. Members of the public must only be permitted to enter the shopping mall:
• for the purpose of accessing a business or place that is permitted to be open under Step 1;
• for the purpose of accessing a designated location described below for purposes of picking up an order;
• for the purpose of delivering or supporting the delivery of court services;
• for operations by or on behalf of a government; or
for the purpose of delivering or supporting the delivery of government services.
2. Members of the public who enter the shopping mall for a permitted reason must not be allowed to loiter in any area of the shopping mall that is not related to the purpose of their visit.
3. If a business or place in the shopping mall has a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk, members of the public may only be permitted to enter and exit the business or place through a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk. Members of the public must be prohibited from entering or exiting the business or place through any entrance that opens directly into the shopping mall.
4. Any interior dining spaces inside the shopping mall, including any tables and seating in food courts, must be closed. 
5. The shopping mall must ensure that any music played at the shopping mall is not at a decibel level that exceeds the level at which normal conversation is possible.
6. If the shopping mall is an indoor shopping mall, the shopping mall must actively screen individuals in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health before they enter the indoor premises of the mall. 
7. Any business in the shopping mall that is not permitted to open for in-person retail sales to the public may open for the purpose of making sales using an alternative method of sale that does not require patrons to enter the shopping mall, including curbside pick-up, delivery, or permitting patrons to pick up items at a designated location established by the shopping mall as below. 
8. A shopping mall may establish a single designated location inside the shopping mall for the purpose of allowing patrons to pick up an order from a business or place inside the shopping mall. Patrons may only pick up orders from the indoor designated location by making a prior appointment, and an item may only be provided for pick-up if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises. 
9. A shopping mall may establish any number of designated locations outside the shopping mall for the purpose of allowing patrons to pick up an order from a business or place inside the shopping mall. Patrons may only pick up orders from the outdoor designated location by making a prior appointment, and an item may only be provided for pick-up if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises.

Additional information for all retail businesses, including shopping malls:

  • All businesses must prepare a COVID-19 workplace safety plan in writing and have it posted in a conspicuous location where it can be viewed by staff and patrons.
  • All businesses must adhere with the SMDHU medical officer of health’s instructions to businesses and organizations.
  • The person responsible for a place of business or facility that engages in retail sales to the public must also:
    o post a sign in a conspicuous location visible to the public that states the maximum capacity they are permitted to operate under.
    o not permit patrons to line up or congregate inside or outside of the business or place unless they are: 1) maintaining a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from other groups of persons and 2) wearing a mask or face covering in a manner that covers their mouth, nose, and chin, unless they are entitled to any masking exceptions.
    o ensure that any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities made available to the public are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition as per provincial direction.
    o ensure that any music played at the place of business is not at a decibel level that exceeds the level at which normal conversation is possible.

During Step 1 businesses providing short-term rental accommodation and hotels, motels, lodges, cabins, cottages, resorts and other shared rental accommodation, including student residences must ensure any indoor pools, communal steam rooms, saunas or indoor whirlpools, indoor fitness centres or other indoor recreational facilities that are part of the operation of these businesses are closed.

 

The Public Health Guidance for Taxi and Rideshare Drivers (revised June 11, 2021) information is intended to help taxi and ride share drivers reduce the risk of exposure to illnesses including COVID-19.

Page last updated: June 16, 2021

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