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Operating your Business Safely

Ontario is in Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen.

NEW: Effective September 25, 2021, at 12:01 a.m., capacity limits will be increased in many indoor public settings where proof of vaccination is required as well as in certain outdoor event venues. The regulation and guidance documents for businesses and organizations included in many of the sections below will be updated, where applicable, in the coming days to reflect this change. Please check back often for updates.

More information on the public health and workplace safety measures in place can be found on the province’s website and in O. Reg 364/20: Rules for Areas in Step 3 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 September 1, 2021) , developed under SMDHU’s medical officer of health.

Under O. Reg. 364/20, the Ontario government now requires patrons 12 years of age and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination (proof of identity and vaccine receipt or effective October 22, 2021 digital vaccine certificate with QR code) to access certain businesses and facilities. Please see the COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Requirement section below for more information.

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's medical officer of health strongly recommends local employers institute a workplace vaccination policy to protect their employees and the public from COVID-19. See the section below for more information on establishing a workplace vaccination policy and building vaccine confidence in your workplace.

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.

The COVID-19 vaccine is the best way to protect your workplace from the risks of COVID-19. It is safe and highly effective at reducing virus spread and protecting against serious illness.

Establishing a Vaccination Policy for your Workplace

Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health strongly recommends local employers institute a workplace COVID-19 vaccination policy to protect their employees and the public from COVID-19. Employers have an obligation to maintain a safe work environment for their workers. To help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, a workplace vaccination policy is an important measure employers should implement, along with other public health measures such as COVID-19 screening, physical distancing, masking and hand hygiene.


On August 17, 2021, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health issued a directive mandating hospitals, home and community care service providers and ambulance services to have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees, staff, contractors, students and volunteers. It will be up to each organization to develop their own policy, which is to include details of vaccination education and exemption criteria.

Increasing COVID-19 Vaccine Confidence in the Workforce

Promoting vaccine uptake is important to help reduce COVID-19 workplace outbreaks and build confidence for a safer return to work. Workplaces can help encourage vaccination by creating a supportive environment that makes it easier for workers to get vaccinated, and by providing information from trusted sources. COVID-19 vaccination provides an important layer of protection for workers, their families and the community.

You can increase vaccine confidence in your workforce by:

  • Sharing credible, trustworthy and timely information about COVID-19 vaccines, including where and how to access them
  • Identify people in your workplace who are willing to be vaccine champions
  • Create and implement policies that support employees to get vaccinated (see section above)
  • Celebrate getting vaccinated

For full details on how to increase employee confidence in COVID-19 vaccines see our fact sheet here.

The Ontario government now requires patrons 12 years of age and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and provide proof of vaccination status along with proof of identity to access certain businesses and organizations with limited exemptions. This requirement is in effect (as of September 22, 2021) under Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas in Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step (O. Reg. 364/20) under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Approach to COVID-19) Act (ROA), 2020.

Requiring proof of vaccination is an important measure to limit COVID-19 transmission and outbreaks, encourage vaccination, and support Ontario’s businesses in remaining open. Businesses and organizations are responsible for ensuring they meet the requirement to check for proof of vaccination and proof of identification from patrons. Patrons are required to ensure that any information provided to the business or organization to demonstrate proof of vaccination or proof of identification is accurate.

Non-compliance by individuals or businesses can result in charges and fines, under the ROA. All Provincial Offences Officers, including by-law, police, public health inspectors and regulatory officers from several ministries may provide education and enforcement of all the requirements under the ROA, including the new proof of vaccination requirement.

The following resources are available to support businesses and organizations in implementing proof of vaccination:

Safety Plan Resources 

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.

More details are provided in O. Reg 364/20.

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


Screening Resources


Testing Resources

  • Antigen Testing Service Directory – find service providers who can do rapid testing for the Provincial Antigen Screening Program.
  • Click here to find out if your workplace is qualified to receive free testing kits from the government

Vaccination Education

This Ministry of Health document provides a list of resources to support workplaces to create a COVID-19 vaccination educational program for their employees or direct employees to an existing program.

Vaccination Guidance

While no specific protocols are in place for businesses that require staff housing, there is 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 (screening employees and receiving results prior to the employee entering the workplace). The employer must have plans in place if a worker fails the COVID-19 screening.

Policies for suspect or confirmed COVID-19 cases and close contacts: When someone is ill: The employer must have plans in place for those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (suspect case) as well as for confirmed cases or close contacts. Policies should include how to access COVID-19 testing, ensuring means for effective isolation, developing contingency plans for staff relocation(transportation, providing means for access to essential items such as food/medical supplies) and return to work recommendations. 

Environmental cleaning: Provide employees in staff housing with supplies to clean and disinfect their housing unit. All disinfectants must be appr0oved by Health Canada and must have a Drug Identification Number. All employees must be trained on how to use disinfectants accordingly and should be provided with a cleaning schedule to follow which outlines recommended frequencies.

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. Staff living together in units, should be cohorted to also work together (e.g. work area). Encourage employees sharing staff accommodation to maintain physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from individuals outside their cohort and use a medical mask and appropriate eye protection 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. Where feasible, increase airflow in the living units (e.g. by opening windows).

Educate employees to protect themselves and others:

  • Practice good hand hygiene: wash with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing 60-90% alcohol content (when hands are not visibly soiled).
  • 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.

Additional information is available in the Landlords and Property Managers section below.

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. 

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.

Guidance Documents

Owners or operators of all businesses, organizations and public transit services in Simcoe and Muskoka must have policies in place with regards to the use of 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 required for some outdoor settings (e.g. outdoor concerts) and recommended in other 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 for indoor lines.

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.  
  • The direction regarding handling of biomedical waste comes from the Ministry of the Environment & Climate Change therefore SMDHU has little oversight.  Point of Care testing products must be disposed as biomedical waste in Ontario, except for the box and paper instruction which can be placed in the general recycling or waste stream.  Further direction on the safe handling & management of rapid testing waste is available here.
  • 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 Screening Program can be found on the Province’s website
Under Step 3, curling clubs must adhere to all public health requirements for sport and recreational facilities as described in SMDHU’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Facilities for Sports and Recreational Fitness Activities - Step 3 (revised September 22, 2021)

 Under Step 3, day camps are permitted to operate.

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 available: COVID 19 Safety Guidelines for Day Camps (revised July 15, 2021).

For mental health resources that may support camp operators and staff in talking to children and youth about the COVID-19 pandemic and seeking mental health support, the province has also made available COVID-19: Mental Health Resources for Camp Operators.

Public Health Ontario (PHO) has also prepared resources to support pre-camp planning and daily camp operations on topics such as COVID-19 transmission; personal protective equipment; hand hygiene; physical distancing; environmental cleaning and cohorting. You can access these resources by visiting PHO’s website.

For additional information, see SMDHU’s COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Day Camps - Step 3 (revised September 1, 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 2 metres of each other, including break and lunch rooms.

The Province of Ontario has developed resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace. These are in addition to all requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, Employment Standards Act, and the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act.

In addition to the sector specific guidelines provided by the province, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s medical officer of health has issued a letter of instruction (amended September 1, 2021) to businesses and organizations in the municipalities in the County of Simcoe, the District of Muskoka, and the Cities of Orillia and Barrie for additional measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

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 September 17, 2021 replaces the order issued March 24, 2021.

COVID-19 vaccination is important to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission among agricultural workers and to protect our food supply. Information on how to book a vaccination appointment can be found here

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:

Facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities have been identified by the Province of Ontario to include the indoor and outdoor areas operated by gymnasiums, health clubs, arenas, exercise studios, yoga and dance studios, curling clubs, sports and fitness areas in multi-purpose facilities, soccer and other sports domes and other fitness facilities.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Facilities for Sports and Recreational Fitness Activities – Step 3 (revised September 24, 2021) provides guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities by following O. Reg 364/20.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Food Premises - Step 3 (Revised September 24, 2021) provides guidance and clarity for food premises by following following O.Reg 364/20.

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 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 indoor gatherings with people outside of their household are permitted up to 25 people, with outdoor gatherings restricted to a maximum of 100 people.
  • 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 follow the directions from the Government of Canada.
  • 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 August 26, 2021)

Additional resources:

  • FAQ (revised July 16, 2021)

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

In Step 3, marinas and boat launches are permitted to operate with specific capacity conditions. 

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Marinas - Step 3 (revised September 22, 2021) provides guidance and clarity for marinas, boat clubs and other organizations that maintain docking facilities.

An event or gathering is any occasion that involves a number of people in proximity to each other for an extended period of time, such as weddings, receptions, concerts, festivals, conferences, and cultural and sporting events.

In Step 3 of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen, indoor social gatherings and organized public events are limited to 25 people. Outdoor social gatherings and organized public events have a capacity limit of up 100 people. This includes outdoor social gatherings associated with a wedding, funeral or a religious service, rite or ceremony. All people in attendance must maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet).

Note: If the gathering or organized public event is held at a place of business permitted to operate under O. Reg 364/20, different capacity limits may apply as per Schedule 3 sections 4 and 5.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Organized Public Events and Gatherings – Step 3 (revised September 22, 2021) provides recommendations to help stop the spread of COVID-19 when organizing an indoor or outdoor event or gathering.

A special event permit from SMDHU is required for all events at which food is served (either sold or given away) to the general public (e.g., fairs, pig roasts and charity events). A special event permit is required for the event organizer as well as all food vendors participating in the event.

To obtain a special event permit, the event organizer is required to complete an event organizer application form, which must be received by SMDHU at least 30 days before the planned event. Event organizer applications received less than 30 days before the event is to take place may not be reviewed or approved.

For more information, review our Special Event Planning webpage.

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Outdoor Recreational Amenities – Step 3 (revised September 24, 2021) is intended to provide public health guidance and regulatory requirements for outdoor recreational amenities, as well as municipalities, businesses and community groups who operate such amenities in the County of Simcoe and the District of Muskoka, to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Guidance to support indoor recreational amenities in operating can be found in O.Reg. 364/20 and SMDHU’s COVID-19 guidance for facilities for sports and recreational fitness activities (revised September 24, 2021).

Under Step 3 personal services settings may operate as follows:

General Guidelines

  • Oxygen bars are not permitted to be open.
  • Staff must continue to wear appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • Customers and staff must be actively screened.
  • A safety plan is required to be developed and available. Please use the following link to help with the development of your plan.
  • Walk-in appointments are not allowed.
  • Food and beverages are allowed to be consumed indoors, however customers must keep their masks on when not eating or drinking.

Capacity Limits and Physical Distancing

  • The total number of patrons permitted indoors in the establishment must be limited to the number that can maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres (6 feet) from every other person in the establishment.
  • Facilities must post visible signage communicating capacity limits under which they are permitted to operate.
  • Customers receiving services must be distanced from others by at least 2 metres (6 feet)

The current Regulation can be found here. In addition, on September 1, 2021 a letter of instruction was issued by SMDHU's Medical Officer of Health under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, that further requires:

  • Active screening of staff regardless of vaccination status
  • Contact information be collected for every client and information kept by PSS for at least 30 days.

Additional Resources:

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

Under Step 3, recreational (overnight) camps are 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 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 3, indoor and outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, whirlpools, wading pools and water slides are permitted to open. Indoor recreational water facilities are limited to 50% capacity of the facility. Other restrictions apply as outlined further in O.Reg 364/20.

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. Waterparks are also permitted to open in Step 2.

More direction about operating recreational water facilities in Step 3 is provided in COVID-19 Guidance for Outdoor Recreational Water Facilities - Step 3 (revised September 24, 2021).

COVID-19 Public Health Guidance for Retail Businesses and Shopping Malls – Step 3  (revised September 23, 2021) provides guidance for retail (essential and non-essential) businesses and indoor shopping malls that are in Step 3 by following O. Reg 364/20

The Public Health Guidance for Taxi and Rideshare Drivers (revised September 1, 2021) information is intended to help taxi and ride share drivers reduce the risk of exposure to illnesses including COVID-19.

IMPORTANT NOTE: While the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit aims to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional. No one should act, or refrain from acting, based solely upon the materials provided in this guidance, any hypertext links or other general information without first seeking appropriate legal or other professional advice. Please visit the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit website regularly for updates and additional guidance.

Page last updated: September 24, 2021

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