This Version Posted: October 14, 2020
Faith groups and places of worship in Ontario are now allowed to reopen under these restrictions:
- Physical distancing rules must be in place
- Attendance is limited to no more than 30 per cent of the indoor building capacity and a maximum of 100 people for outdoor gatherings
Protect the health and safety of your members and congregants by taking measures to preventing the spread of COVID-19. Read on for further resources, including the Health Unit’s COVID-19 Guidance for Reopening Places of Worship. You can also click here for specific Guidelines on Health and Safety for Places of Worship During COVID-19 from Workplace Safety and Prevention Services.
Non-Medical Mask Use During Religious Services
- The local Health Unit is now including churches/places of worship in the list of indoor public places where people are being instructed to wear non-medical masks. As of now, the Ontario government is also mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions, including corrections and developmental services.
- Unless a person is exempted, non-medical masks or face coverings should be worn at all times inside public places, including places of worship. For religious services/rites or ceremonies, indoor weddings and funeral services, attendees must wear masks at all times with a secured physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
- Group singing is strongly discouraged. Instead, consider using audio or video recordings.
- Where speaking or singing is required as a part of a faith-based service, masks may be removed for the purposes of speaking where sufficient distance (greater than 4 metres) is provided between the speaker(s) and participants. In the event of loud speaking or any singing simultaneously during a speaking engagement, masks may be removed with sufficient barrier(s) required, such as glass or Plexiglas that forms a complete barrier between the speaker(s)/singer(s) and others
- Singers (eg. choir members) or performers do not need to wear a mask while they are rehearsing or performing. Singers and players of brass or wind instruments must be separated from any spectators by Plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier. Every performer and other person must maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person, except, if it is necessary for the performers to be closer to each other for the purposes of the performance or rehearsal. During periods of rest in between performances, face coverings should be used.
Weddings and Funerals
More people are now allowed to attend wedding or funeral services. For indoor ceremonies, the number of people allowed to attend a funeral or wedding can now be a maximum of 30 per cent capacity of the ceremony venue. Wedding and funeral ceremonies taking place outdoors will be limited to 100 attendees. For both indoor and outdoor ceremonies, those attending must follow proper health and safety rules.
COVID-19 Preventive Measures in Places of Worship
- Maintain physical distancing by staying two metres (six feet) apart at all times.
- Anyone who is feeling sick should stay home and not attend a service.
- Encourage everyone to wash their hands. Ensure hand-cleaning stations and alcohol-based sanitizer dispensers are available at entrances to your place of worship.
- Ensure everyone wears a mask or face covering at all times, including when seated during the worship service.
- Stop shaking hands or hugging.
- Remind people to cough/sneeze into their sleeves.
- Discourage group singing. Use audio or video recordings instead of live singing or wind instruments
- Review the sharing of items during special religious sacraments/rites, at least while COVID-19 continues to circulate. You may want to consult further with your parish/diocese/denomination/national body.
- Maintain a clean and safe space through regular cleaning and disinfecting. High-touch surfaces should be cleaned twice a day or following each service (whichever is more frequent).
- Encourage staff and visitors to stay home when sick.
- Have a traffic flow plan in place, such as one-way enter/one-way exit.
- Encourage members/parishioners who are more vulnerable to COVID-19 (including those over age 70 and people with compromised immune systems) to take part in virtual services or hold a dedicated service solely for this group.
- Consider keeping a record of all attendees for contact tracing in case of a COVID-19 outbreak.
Stay Connected During COVID-19 in Other Ways
- Continue to offer virtual or live-streamed services to those who are unable to attend services
- Keep in touch by phone or via social media/email/text. Share credible information – like what’s on this website on how people can protect themselves from COVID-19.
- Adults aged 70 years and older or people with compromised immune systems may be at higher risk of COVID-19. Think about ways that you can reach out to these individuals by phone or electronical means. See if you can assist with essential errands (e.g. groceries, pharmacy pick-up), keeping in mind the importance of protecting your own health by practising physical distancing.
Download and print resources below: