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Operating your Business Safely

The Government of Ontario has declared a provincial emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA) and issued a stay-at-home order, effective Thursday April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m..

The stay-at-home order is in addition to the emergency brake shutdown measures implemented provincially on April 3, 2021. More information on the enhanced public health and workplace safety measures in place during shutdown can be found on the province’s website and in O.Reg 82/20 along with O.Reg 265/21.

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 Reopening Ontario Act, 2020 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. SMDHU continuously updates the information and guidance provided on this page. Resources will be updated as soon as possible. Check back regularly for the newest updates.

The 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 on the province’s website and 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:

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.

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 the provincewide shutdown, curling clubs must be closed as of April 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m..
Under the provincewide shutdown, day camps must be closed as of April 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m..

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 – Shutdown & Stay-at-home order (Revised April 7, 2021) provides guidance and clarity for food premises by following following O.Reg 82/20 Rules for Areas in Stage 1 along with O.Reg 265/21 Stay-at-home order.

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

The Government of Ontario issued a provincewide stay-at-home order, effective April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. The stay-at-home order is in addition to the shutdown measures implemented provincially on April 3, 2021.

The stay-at-home order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes (e.g. going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services (including getting vaccinated), for outdoor exercise, or for work that cannot be done remotely). A full list of permitted reasons to go out can be found in O.Reg 265/21.

During the stay-at-home order and provincewide shutdown, indoor gatherings are prohibited and organized outdoor gatherings must include no more than five people with physical distancing (2 metres/6 feet) being maintained from those outside your household. Masks or face coverings should be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors with individuals from outside your household.

At this time, SMDHU recommends cancelling or postponing all non-essential events and gatherings.

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 tot he 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 5 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.

Effective Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. the province has further strengthened public health and workplace safety measures for non-essential retail. These measures include, but are not limited to:

  • Limiting the majority of non-essential retailers to only operate for curbside pick-up and delivery, via appointment, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., with delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., along with other restrictions.
  • Restricting access to shopping malls to limited specified purposes, including access for curbside pick-up and delivery, via appointment, with one single designated location inside the shopping mall, and any number of designated locations outside the shopping mall, along with other restrictions;
  • Restricting discount and big box stores in-person retail sales to grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items only;
  • Permitting the following stores to operate for in-person retail by appointment only and subject to a twenty-five percent capacity limit and restricting allowable hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. with the delivery of goods to patrons permitted between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.:
    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 Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
    o Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
    o Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
    o Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
    o Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.
  • Permitting outdoor garden centres and plant nurseries, and indoor greenhouses that engage in sales to the public, to operate with a twenty-five percent capacity limit and a restriction on hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Outdoor recreational amenities listed below are permitted to open under Schedule 3 of Ontario Regulation 82/20 are permitted to open.

While outdoor exercise is considered essential under the stay-at-home order, it should be undertaken within your own community to prevent further transmission of COVID-19 between geographic areas. Further guidance on outdoor recreational amenities listed under Schedule 3 of O. Reg 82/20 will be provided shortly.

  • 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 and bike 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.

The above outdoor recreational amenities may open only if: 

 a) 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;
b) team sports are not practised or played within the amenity;
c) 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 within the amenity; and
d) any locker rooms, change rooms, showers, clubhouses, restaurants, pools, meeting rooms, fitness centres or other recreational facilities on the premises remain closed, except to the extent they provide access to equipment storage, a washroom or a portion of the amenity that is used to provide first aid.

Under the provincewide shutdown, all personal services settings are to be closed as of April 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m.. This includes, but is not limited to hair and nail salons, tattoo parlours and suntanning parlours.

Recreational Camps are not currently 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.

Under the provincewide shutdown, all recreational water facilities are required to close to the public as of April 3, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. 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.

Effective Thursday April 8, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the Province’s stay-at-home order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes. Iin accordance with Ontario Regulation 82/20, short-term rentals and shared rental accommodations (such as hotels, motels, lodges, resorts etc.) are only to be provided for those who are in need of housing.

While outdoor exercise is considered essential under the stay-at-home order, it should be undertaken within your local community, avoiding the need for housing accommodations and preventing further transmission of COVID-19 between geographic areas.

Page last updated: April 9, 2021

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