Provincewide shutdown in effect
Coronavirus SociaL Media - PROVINCEWIDE SHUTDOWN
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Operating your Business Safely

On January 12, 2021, the Government of Ontario declared a second provincial emergency under s 7.0.1 (1) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMPCA), issued a stay-at-home order effective Thursday, January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. and expanded the existing public health measures put in place to keep Ontarians safe and healthy during the provincewide shutdown. For information on the enhanced public health and workplace safety measures in place during the provincewide shutdown click here.

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

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) and local municipalities may also implement local public health directions, bylaws, and policies which can exceed the provincial laws and recommendations. Employers should continue to consult with public health and their local municipality to ensure familiarity with the current laws and recommendations.

We are working to update the information and guidance provided on this page to reflect the new enhanced public health and workplace safety measures. Check back regularly for the newest updates. Employers should continue to consult with public health and their local municipality to ensure familiarity with the current laws and recommendations. 

AMENDED December 15, 2020: Letter of Instruction to Businesses and Organizations for Additional Public Health Measures


With significantly increasing rates of COVID-19 in our community, we strongly encourage Simcoe and Muskoka businesses to remain vigilant in your efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

On December 21, 2020, the Government of Ontario declared that a province-wide shutdown will begin on December 26, 2020 at 12:01a.m. More details are provided in the summary of the COVID 19: Provincewide Shutdown and in O. Reg 82/20.

Under the province-wide shutdown, as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am, all businesses that may open shall prepare and make available a safety plan. The safety plan shall describe the measures and procedures which have been implemented in the business to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19. The safety plan shall include screening, physical distancing, masks or face coverings 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 shall 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.

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 non-medical mask or face covering. As well, every person indoors shall wear a mask or face covering unless exemptions apply as per O. Reg 364/20 and recommended outdoors when physical distancing is a challenge. Best efforts shall be made to only allow entry to customers wearing a face covering. The 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 by (such as eating or drinking).

Regarding signage, we only ask that you post appropriate visible signage indicating that 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. Employees sharing staff accommodation must maintain physical distance from others and use 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 province-wide shutdown, as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am, curling clubs must be closed.
Under the provincewide shutdown, all day camps are required to close as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am.
Under the province-wide shutdown, as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am, downhill ski recreational amenities must be closed.

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 licensed laboratory ahead of reopening.

For more information and resources for your business visit the small drinking water systems section of our website.

Large employers, such as those in the manufacturing sector have a number of 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 should remain as a ‘bubble’ or team during breaks (i.e. lunch), meetings, or in entering/leaving the facility where possible with 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 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 – Provincewide Shutdown (December 21, 2020).

This document provides guidance and clarity for areas in lockdown, by following O.Reg 82/20 Rules for Areas in Stage 1.

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

Pursuant to Ontario Regulation 82/20, businesses and organizations that provide ice fishing services (including the rental of ice fishing huts) are permitted to rent ice huts to members of the same household or for individual use. These rentals must be for day use only.

When deciding whether to go ice fishing, individuals are asked to abide by the stay-at-home order. If going ice fishing, indoor and outdoor gathering limits apply (as per Sec. 1 (a), Schedule 4). This means individuals inside an ice hut must be from the same household, and gatherings outside must include no more than five people with physical distancing being maintained from those outside your household. Only travel to the ice fishing location in the same vehicle as those who live in your household. Face coverings should be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors or if it is necessary to be transported to the ice fishing location with individuals from outside your household.

The Government of Ontario has declared a second provincial emergency under the Emergency Management Civil Protection Act, as well as a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The stay-at-home order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes, such as going to the grocery store or pharmacy, accessing health care services, for exercise, or for essential work. As such, all events and gatherings should be cancelled or postponed at this time.

During the stay-at-home order, indoor gatherings are prohibited and outdoor gatherings must include no more than five people with physical distancing being maintained from those outside your household (as per Sec. 1 (a), Schedule 4). Face coverings should be worn if physical distancing cannot be maintained outdoors with individuals from outside your household. Scarves and bandanas are insufficient face coverings.

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, 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 allowed.
  • 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.

Should I consider making modifications to the ventilation system in my multi-unit dwellings?

While it has been shown that increasing ventilation (e.g. opening windows when weather permits) may help reduce the transmission of other viruses such as influenza, there is currently no evidence to suggest that COVID-19 can be spread through ventilation systems.

Knowledge on COVID-19 continues to evolve, however the current evidence does not suggest a risk of transmission from airborne virus in properly maintained HVAC systems. Residents of multi-dwelling units can also take actions to protect themselves and others. Visit our main page for more information.

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

For the purposes of re-opening, child care operators are directed to the Ministry of Education Guideline as well as the SMDHU Guidance Document for Licensed Childcare Settings (Revised October 28, 2020).

Additional resources:

FAQ- Revised November 12, 2020

COVID-19 Webinar for Child Care - June 26, 2020

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

On January 12, 2021, the Government of Ontario declared a second provincial emergency as well as a stay-at-home order which began on January 14 at 12:01a.m. More details are provided in the summary of the COVID-19 stay at home order, the stay-at-home order and in Ontario Regulation 82/20.

Under the emergency order, all non-essential retail stores, including hardware stores, alcohol retailers, and those offering curbside pickup or delivery, must open no earlier than 7 a.m. and close no later than 8 p.m. The restricted hours of operation do not apply to stores that primarily sell food, pharmacies, gas stations, convenience stores, and restaurants for takeout or delivery. 

Direction for Retailers Offering Curbside Pick-Up or Delivery

  • Sales must be exclusively made using an alternative method of sale that does not require patrons to enter the indoor area of the business, including curbside pickup or delivery. 
  • If the business allows patrons to pick up items, it must have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk, or in the case of a business in a shopping mall, permit patrons to pick up the items at a designated location established by the shopping mall.
  • An item may only be provided for pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises. 


Shopping malls must also remain closed for in-person retail

The shopping mall must open no earlier than 7:00 a.m. and close no later than 8:00 p.m. and may not deliver goods to patrons outside of those hours. If a business within the shopping mall is permitted to open outside of these hours and is only accessible from the inside of the mall, then the shopping mall may adjust its hours to permit access.

Members of the public are only permitted to enter the shopping mall to:

  • Access businesses and organizations permitted to be open (e.g., pharmacy, dentist); food court restaurant for take-out only, or by appointment only to facilitate pick-up as set out below 
  • Access court services and government services
  • A shopping mall may establish a single designated indoor location for order pick-up by patrons. Pick-up inside the shopping mall must be by appointment only and physical distancing of 2 metres (6 feet) must be maintained. Designated outdoor locations may also be established for curbside pick-up by patrons.

Members of the public not permitted to loiter in any area of the shopping mall that is not related to the purpose of their visit.

Retail Returns

  • Retail returns are allowed. 
  • Retailers should consider returns in their COVID Safety Plan. 
  • In addition to physical distancing and masking, employees handling returned items should practice proper hand hygiene by washing your hands regularly or using an alcohol based hand sanitizer with minimum 60 % alcohol content. 
  • Retailers may consider isolating returned items that cannot be cleaned and disinfected for 24-72 hours. 

When deciding whether to go to retail stores, individuals are asked to take the stay-at-home order into consideration and limit trips to those for essential purposes (e.g. going to the grocery store or pharmacy).

Under the provincewide shutdown, as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am all personal services settings are to be closed.

Click here for guidance on COVID-19 Guidance For Outdoor Winter Trail Amenities.

Under the provincewide shutdown, all recreational water facilities: pools and whirlpools/spas (spa), waterparks, float parks, wave pools, steam rooms, saunas are required to close to the public as of December 26, 2020 at 12:01am.

Effective Thursday January 14, 2021 at 12:01 a.m., the Province’s stay-at-home order requires everyone to remain at home except for essential purposes. In 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 exercise is considered essential under this order, it should be undertaken within your own community, avoiding the need for housing accommodations and preventing further transmission of COVID-19 between geographic areas.

Page last updated: January 26, 2021

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