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Operating your Business Safely

The Province of Ontario has implemented the Keeping Ontario Safe and Open Framework, which guides public health restrictions based on COVID-19 transmission in the province. 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.

Currently, SMDHU is in ORANGE – Restrict level classification in the Province’s COVID-19 response framework: keeping Ontario safe and open. 

NEW: Letter of Instruction to Businesses and Organizations for Additional Public Health Measures – November 26, 2020


We are working to update the information and guidance provided on this page to reflect the new classification system. Employers should continue to consult with public health and their local municipality to ensure familiarity with the current laws and recommendations.

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

We recognize the importance of traditions – such as holiday gatherings hosted by workplaces for their employees - in celebration of a variety of multicultural holidays and festivities. Because of COVID-19 and advice to keep contacts to only people you live with and avoid gatherings with others, we recommend that employers plan virtual celebrations as the safest way to celebrate in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This could include an online secret Santa, virtual ugly sweater contest, a virtual Karaoke party, or an online trivia competition.

Hosting an in-person celebration for your workplace’s employees could put people at risk of getting COVID-19. Following Thanksgiving celebrations in the fall, Simcoe Muskoka experienced a significant increase in COVID-19 transmission that was directly associated with in-person gatherings and celebrations.

If you are still considering in-person workplace holiday celebrations, please review the health unit’s recommendations for how to decrease the risks associated with in-person gatherings of people who don’t live together and be mindful of current gathering limits and the requirement for physical distancing of 2 meters and the use of face coverings in indoor publicly accessible locations or when unable to physically distance. To help reduce transmission of COVID-19 between geographic areas, ensure the gathering’s venue is located within the workplace’s jurisdiction so employees avoid travelling outside of their community. Finally, if the gathering is to be hosted at a venue outside of your organization, more restrictive public health and safety measures may apply.

With the rapidly changing case count and risk level for COVID-19, it is possible that the above recommendations will become revised (to make them more stringent and protective); we recommend that you monitor our website for such possible changes and be prepared to change your plans accordingly.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance For Indoor And Outdoor Events & Gatherings – Orange Restrict (November 21, 2020) provides recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID-19 when organizing and attending an indoor or outdoor event or gathering. For additional information to assist with the identification of risks associated with an event or gathering please see the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Risk mitigation tool for gatherings and events operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Effective July 13, 2020, 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. 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 at1-888-444-3659.

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 to 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.

For public health recommendations provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health please see COVID-19 Guidance Summer Day Camps.(Revised August 13, 2020)

Management of individuals who develop symptoms of possible COVID-19
If a child or staff member fails a screen, they must be excluded from the day camp. Refer the individual to an assessment centre for testing for COVID-19. Contact SMDHU at 1-877-721-7520 ext. 8809 if a camper or staff member reports that they are positive for COVID-19. The health unit will provide specific advice on required control measures to prevent the potential spread and how to monitor for other possible infected staff members and children.

Other resources have been created by SMDHU to assist day camp providers to assess readiness to open, reduce the risk of introducing and spreading COVID-19 and recording active surveillance. Please see:

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 – Orange Restrict (November, 21, 2020)
provides additional guidance and clarity for areas in stage 3, Ontario Regulation 364/20 Rules for Areas in Stage 3. This guidance applies to food premises’ indoor and outdoor dining areas. 

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

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 of gatherings restrictions.
  • 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 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.

The following COVID-19 Public Health Guidance For Malls And Shopping Centres is for owners and operators of malls and shopping centres within the County of Simcoe and the District of Muskoka to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For more information visit Resources for All Employers and Workplaces

All hair salons, spas, tanning salons, tattoo studios, diet centres and beauty salons were permitted to open in Stage 2.  

All services that tend to a customer's face (e.g. facials, ear piercing, and eyebrow grooming and eyelash extensions) were permitted to open in Stage 3.

Oxygen bars, bath houses, steam rooms and saunas are not yet permitted to open.


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

COVID-19 Guidance For Recreational Water Facilities is for municipalities, hotels, resorts and persons who operate public recreational water facilities. It provides requirements and recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while operating pools, whirlpools, splash pads, spray pads, wading pools, and water slides.

Prior to the re-opening of your pools and whirlpool/spa you will require an inspection from a Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit Public Health Inspector. You will not be allowed to reopen if you haven’t had an inspection conducted of your pool/whirlpool/spa. 

You will need to submit the completed notification form to the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit - Environmental Health Department and ensure all requirements of Regulation 565 – Public Pools are met. 

Standing water at recreational water settings, can cause conditions that increase the risk for growth and spread of Legionella and other biofilm-associated bacteria. Stagnant water can also impact disinfectant levels. Please consider the recommendations from the Centre for Disease Control with respect to biofilm, flushing, water features and spa disinfection:

For more information and resources for your business visit the recreational water facility section of our website.

Letters providing public health guidance and regulatory requirements have been sent to ski and snow resort facilities (letter here) and curling clubs (letter here) in the County of Simcoe and the District Municipality of Muskoka in preparation for the upcoming ski and curling season and to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Due to the developing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial regulatory response, the guidance contained within this letter is focused on Stage 3 requirements for operation under Ontario Regulation 364/20.
The Public Health Guidance for Taxi and Rideshare Drivers- revised November 18, 2020information is intended to help taxi and ride share drivers reduce the risk of exposure to illnesses including COVID-19.

Page last updated: December 1, 2020

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