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Reopening and Operating your Business Safely

We are in Stage 2 of the Framework for Opening the Province. More businesses and workplaces are allowed to operate while following proper health and safety guidelines.

NEW: 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).

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.

Correspondence sent July 7, 2020-  Instructions to Persons Responsible for a Business or Organization Permitted to Open under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990 and related Regulations

Guidance on Face Covering Instructions for Businesses and Organizations (including Public Transit Services)

FAQ's for Businesses and Organizations

Public Signage for Printing & Displaying:

Wearing a Face Covering In All Indoor Public Spaces

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 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 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.

The provincial government is permitting summer day camps to operate during the months of July and August 2020. Overnight camps are prohibited. For public health recommendations provided by the Ontario Ministry of Health please see COVID-19 Guidance Summer Day Camps.

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 farm 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:

On June 12th restaurants, bars, food trucks and other food and drink establishments (e.g., wineries, breweries and distilleries) can open for dining in outdoor areas only, such as patios, curbside, parking lots and adjacent premises. Please refer to the COVID-19 Guidelines for Reopening a Food Premises for Outdoor Dining – Patios, Curbside, Parking Lots and Adjacent Premises.

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.
  • Postpone any non-urgent inspections, renovations, or repair work, if possible.
  • Close all onsite recreational amenities (e.g. pool, gyms) and gathering spaces (e.g. party or entertainment rooms).
  • 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 to not have social gatherings greater than 10 people( including family members).
  • You are encouraged to still allow deliveries of such items as food, medications, and other products
  • 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.

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. Reopening inspections will not be required for existing licensed child care centres unless changes in age groups or ratios are planned. We are reminding all operators of child care centres to ensure that water flushing occurs prior to re-opening so that the water quality in the building is restored.

Letter: Flushing and Sampling in Child Care Centres Before Reopening- June 11, 2020

Additionally, we have created:

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

As of Friday, June 12, 2020, businesses that offer select personal services can re-open to the public. This SMDHU guidance document and FAQ has been developed to support owners/operators on how to reopen personal services settings while reducing the risk of staff and clients from contracting COVID-19.

Please note that currently, the following services are not permitted to be offered:

1. Any service provided to a customer’s face including, but not limited to: 

  • Facials and microdermabrasion 
  • Eyelash extensions/grooming 
  • Facial hair removal (e.g. eyebrow/lip hair removal, beard trimming, straight shaving) 
  • Microblading, microneedling and micropigmentation 
  • Makeup application 
  • Oxygen bars

2. Steam rooms, saunas, water therapies including float spas. Note: Showers can be made available if operator is able to adequately clean and disinfect the facilities


The Workplace Safety & Prevention Service (WSPS) has provided a document for guidance on health and safety for Personal Services Settings during COVID-19.

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

Recreational water settings (pools, wading pools, and splash pads) can begin to reopen on Friday June 12, 2020. Spas/whirlpools, waterparks, wave pools, float parks and water slides will not be permitted to reopen in Stage 2. Further, there will be no access allowed to high-contact aquatic features such as slides and climbing structures.

Prior to the re-opening of your pool(s) 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. Spas/whirlpools will need to be made inaccessible to the public.

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:

Under regulation 565, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, before the re-opening of a public pool or public spa following a closure that lasts for more than four weeks, the owner or operator shall notify in writing the medical officer of health or a public health inspector for the health unit where the pool or spa is situate,

(a) of the date that the pool or spa is to be re-opened;

(b) of the name and address of the operator; and

(c) in the case of a pool, whether the pool is intended to be operated as a Class A or a Class B pool.

It is important to consider plans for physical distancing by:

  • Reducing resting areas and pool capacity. 
  • Limiting and distancing pool-side seating. 
  • Timed entry (e.g., appointment only) 
  • Aquatic activities such as fitness classes and swim lessons must be in line with physical distancing measures. For example, only other household members can assist swimmers with physical contact.

Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection 

  • In addition to standard cleaning protocols, clean and disinfect high touch surfaces including doorknobs, light switches, toilet handles, and tabletops at least twice daily.
  • Equipment that is rented or loaned must be disinfected or quarantined appropriately between uses. 
  • Change rooms and showers will be available to the public if operators can adequately sanitize and disinfect the facilities.

Procedures must also be developed and implemented to ensure health and safety of employees and patrons.

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

Grocery and Pharmacy: As the COVID-19 pandemic continues it is essential for retail stores such as grocery and pharmacies to ensure safe and reliable access to food, supplies and other provisions – and to take measures aimed at preventing further transmission of the virus. This guidance document outlines key steps for the sector to implement during the pandemic.

Clothing and other: Retail operators must use one or more of the following methods to ensure that persons in the place of business can maintain physical distancing of at least two metres from each other at all times:

  • Using alternative methods of sale such as curb side pick-up or delivery. 
  • Operating by appointment. 
  • Limiting the number of people who may be in the place of business at any one time.

Retail operators that have a fitting room shall ensure that the fitting room remain closed unless,
(a) the fitting room stalls are equipped with a solid door that may be closed;
(b) customers are not permitted to occupy adjacent fitting room stalls at any one time; and
(c) the fitting room stalls are cleaned and disinfected after each use. 

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