Fast Facts on the COVID-19 Vacs for Kids

Learn why COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age is safe, effective and recommended.

Watch this video recording of the Fast Facts on the COVID-19 Vacs for Kids Panel Discussion held December 2.

The panel provides information on COVID-19 and the vaccine for children and addresses pre-submitted questions. Panel participants include:

  • Dr. Natalie Bocking, Medial Officer of Health, HKPR District Health Unit
  • Dr. Emma Smith, Family Physician with Northumberland Family Health Team
  • Dr. Sheila Mae Young – Family Physician in the City of Kawartha Lakes
  • Brooke Mountney, Public Health Nurse, HKPR District Health Unit

Additional Resources


Holidays, Family Gatherings and Celebrations

Visiting others for a holiday or special celebration? Stay safe during COVID-19, especially with rising cases and the new Omicron variant being detected in Ontario.


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Current Gathering Limits and Public Health Measures
  • Capacity limits for outdoor organized public events (such as outdoor parades, holiday events and other similar events) are now removed. However, masks must be worn at these events if two metre physical distancing cannot be maintained. Learn more here. NOTE: Capacity limits for indoor public events is capped at 25 people, unless an exception applies.

Ontario’s current COVID-19 restrictions still limit the number of people who can gather indoors and outdoors for private social gatherings. The following applies:

  • Up to 25 people are allowed at indoor social gatherings.
  • A maximum of 100 people is permitted for outdoor social gatherings.
  • Retirement homes are exempt from gathering limits.
  • Masks must be worn at organized indoor public events. Physical distancing (staying 2 metres apart from others outside your household) is also required at organized indoor public events.
  • While masks do not have to be worn at social gatherings inside private homes, face coverings are required in common areas (hallways) in multi-unit dwellings like apartments, condominiums, etc. Wearing a mask indoors if you are gathering with people outside your household is a good idea, as it can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • To further reduce your risk of COVID-19, continue to practise physical distancing at any gathering you attend.

If you are still uncertain or have concerns about gathering with others, consider celebrating virtually or connect by phone instead.


General Tips for Holidays, Celebrations and Family Gatherings

COVID-19 remains a risk. If gathering for the holidays with others outside of your household, be sure to stay safe. Limiting the size and frequency of contact with others outside your household is the best way to stop the spread. This means you may want to limit the number of people who gather at one time, or restrict guests to only those who are fully vaccinated. Here’s what to do:

Before Attending a Social Gathering:
  • Get vaccinated if not already. Find a list of COVID-19 vaccination clinics in your region.
  • Stay home if sick. Use Ontario’s online COVID-19 assessment tool to help determine if you need further care.
  • Encourage everyone to screen themselves for COVID-19 symptoms prior to attending.
  • If you start to feel symptoms of COVID-19, and are hosting a gathering, cancel or postpone to a later date or until you have tested negative and have not had any symptoms of COVID-19 for at least 24 hours.
  • Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Ask others attending the gathering what their vaccination status is, so you can take appropriate precautions at the event such as wearing a mask and staying two metres apart from others outside your household.
  • If you’re hosting a visit, and have decided to only allow people who are fully vaccinated, let your guests know well in advance. This ensures there are no surprises and everyone is clear about the rules.
  • Before visiting, consider your health status and those of your guests. Insist on vaccination or additional prevention measures if you or your guests are at higher risk of COVID-19 due to age or medical reasons.
  • Be aware of the number of people you invite over, ensuring you stay within current gathering limits. Consider keeping contact information for your guests, just in case it is needed by public health.
  • If you feel uncomfortable attending a holiday gathering, stay home and instead connect virtually or by phone with friends and family.
If Gathering Outdoors:
  • COVID-19 is less likely to be spread outdoors than indoors
  • If gathering outdoors with a group of fully vaccinated individuals, no face covering or physical distancing is necessary (although you may want to still take precautions if you feel more comfortable doing so)
  • If gathering outdoors with people from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccination status is unknown, consider wearing masks if physical distancing cannot be maintained
If Gathering Indoors:
  • If gathering indoors with a group of fully vaccinated individuals, you may consider removing masks if everyone is comfortable doing so.
  • Masks should be worn indoors if people from multiple households are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated, or vaccination status is unknown. In these situations, you should also stay two metres apart from anyone outside your household who is unvaccinated.
  • If gathering inside (and if possible), open windows and doors to allow for good ventilation.

REMEMBER: Regardless of the setting, you can wear a face covering and physically distance if you feel it’s right for you. This is especially true if you or others are immunocompromised or at high-risk of severe disease and/or exposure to COVID-19.


If Hosting an In-Person Gathering:
  • Smaller is better for social gatherings, especially to limit COVID-19 spread. Remember that gathering limits of 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors still apply.
  • Tell guests not to attend if they have COVID-19 symptoms, even if mild.
  • Encourage everyone to frequently wash their hands. Provide all necessary supplies, including hand sanitizer, soap and water
  • Open windows if possible.
  • Make a list of guests attending in case public health needs it for contact tracing.
  • Insist that guests wear a face covering and physically distance if there are people from multiple households at the gathering, and some of them are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccine status is unknown.
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces.
  • Follow food safety tips if preparing a meal for a gathering of friends or family. Wash hands before and during food prep and serving.
  • If going out to eat at a restaurant with family or friends, follow all rules and requirements at the eatery. This includes providing proof of COVID-19 vaccination, which is now required in Ontario if eating indoors at a restaurant or accessing other non-essential businesses and indoor settings.
If Attending an In-Person Gathering:
  • Ask the host in advance if they will be putting COVID-19 prevention measures in place. If in doubt or uncomfortable, do not attend.
  • Wear a face covering and physically distance if there are people from multiple households at the gathering, and some of them are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccine status is unknown.
  • Do not attend if you have any COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re mild.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer regularly throughout the event.
  • ‘Visit’ virtually with family and friends, if you believe it is a safer way to connect. Pick up the phone or chat via social media and/or video-conferencing. Consider using these platforms to hold a virtual holiday party/celebration. If technology is not your thing, send a card or write a letter to a loved one.
  • Look after your mental health and that of your loved ones, especially people who may be alone and feel cut off from others.
  • If exchanging gifts with other people outside your household, wash your hands after handling or opening gifts.
Planning for Overnight Stays
  • Consider whether you, someone you live with, or anyone you plan to visit with is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. This can help determine whether to stay overnight in the same residence or to stay elsewhere.
  • Plan ahead for what to do if you, or someone else, gets sick during the visit, even with mild symptoms (such as plans for self-isolation, health care and travel home)
  • Hosts and guests from multiple households who are unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or vaccination status is unknown should not sleep in the same bedroom and should use separate washrooms (if possible).
  • Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
  • Monitor for COVID-19 symptoms (both hosts and guests)
If Travelling For the Holidays (including university students returning home for the holidays)
  • Ensure you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if travelling inside or outside Canada. It’s best to avoid non-essential travel if unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.
  • Be aware of the COVID-19 situation in your travel destination. Follow any COVID-19 restrictions that are in place there.
  • Continue to follow important public health measures, such as wearing masks, physical distancing and frequent handwashing.
  • If returning from a trip and experiencing symptoms (even mild ones), get tested for COVID-19 and stay home.
  • Follow all of the federal government’s current COVID-19 travel guidance and quarantine rules.
Additional Resources:

COVID-19 and Daycares

Licensed child care centres are now open and operating at full capacity, but under certain control measures due to COVID-19.

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For Child Care Providers

Child care providers must follow various COVID-19 prevention measures to protect children in their care.

Vaccination Disclosure Policy

Ontario’s vaccination disclosure policy for staff at all licensed child care settings is now in effect. It means staff must provide proof of one of the following:

  • Full vaccination against COVID-19;
  • A medical reason for not being vaccinated against COVID-19; or
  • Completion of a COVID-19 vaccination educational session.

Individuals who do not provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 will be required to undertake regular antigen testing. Refer to this Resource Guide on COVID-19 Immunization Disclosure Policy for more information.

General COVID-19 Prevention Measures:

  • Ensuring all child care staff and other adults wear medical masks and eye protection (i.e. face shields) at all times while inside the child care premises, including in hallways
  • Conducting frequent and thorough cleaning and disinfecting of the facility. Frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs, water fountains, light switches, tabletops, electronics and toilet/faucet handles should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice a day as they are most likely to become contaminated.
  • Carrying out daily COVID-19 screening of children, staff and visitors before they can enter a childcare facility
  • Maintaining attendance records to allow for COVID-19 contact tracing and coordination if needed
  • Encouraging frequent hand washing and proper hand hygiene for children and staff
  • Following clear and rigid case management protocols should a staff member or child become ill or test positive for COVID-19.

For specifics on what is required, child care providers should consult the following resources:

Ontario Government

HKPR District Health Unit


For Parents
Screening Your Child for COVID-19 Symptoms
What to Do If Your Child Does Not Pass Screening
Protocols When Student/Staff Test Positive for COVID-19
High-Risk Contacts
Return to Child Care Protocol for Children with COVID-19 Symptoms
Number of COVID-19 Cases in Child Care Centres

Health Unit Support

The Health Unit is working with local licensed child care centres to ensure they follow proper protocols to protect the safety of children, families and staff during the pandemic. If you have questions or concerns, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.


Additional Resources

COVID-19 and Schools

The Health Unit works closely with local school boards and other public health units to ensure schools remain safe for in-person learning for students, staff and families during COVID-19. Find more information and resources for parents, school board staff and students.

  • Support student health beyond COVID-19. Help students maintain a routine, look after their mental health, and find tips on how to eat healthy, sleep well, be physically active and complete homework.

Current Situation
  • Ontario will provide more COVID-19 testing options this winter, including providing all students in December with a pack of five rapid antigen tests to use over the holidays to check for COVID-19 while off school. Get full details here.
  • Starting in January 2021, additional public health measures go into effect. Elementary schools will only be allowed to hold virtual-only assemblies and lunches/breaks will be restricted to classroom cohorts when indoors (where distancing between cohorts cannot be maintained). Parent-teacher interviews will also have to be held virtually, not in-person. These new measures are included in Ontario’s updated guidelines and health and safety measures for the 2021/22 school year.

Student COVID-19 Vaccinations

Protect students from COVID-19! Children ages 5-11 years old are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, joining youth born in 2016 or earlier who were already eligible. Click here for a list of available COVID-19 vaccination clinics in your area.


On This Page

For Parents
Screening Your Child for COVID-19 Symptoms
What to Do If Your Child Does Not Pass Screening
Protocols When Student/Staff Test Positive for COVID-19
High-Risk Contacts
COVID-19 Outbreak in School
Return to School Protocol for Students with COVID-19 Symptoms
Provincial Resources

Guidance documents and resources:

Local School Board Resources

Learn how your local school board is working to support a safe return to class during COVID-19:


Frequently Asked Questions

Should I have my child tested for COVID-19 before they return to school?

Testing your child before returning to school is generally not recommended if they do not have COVID-19 symptoms, unless they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

What if my child shows symptoms before going to school or while at school?

As per the Operational Guidance for Schools (2021/22), all students and staff must self-screen every day before arriving at school. If a student or staff member is experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19, they must stay home from school and should seek testing and appropriate medical attention.

If a student or staff member feels sick, or develops symptoms while at school, schools will follow the following protocol:

  • Students or staff who develop COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be separated from others, and the family will be contacted to arrange pick-up.
  • Staff and students with symptoms will be directed to seek medical advice including the recommendation of testing for COVID 19 as appropriate or as advised by their medical provider. Check out local COVID 19 Assessment Centre locations, and book an appointment for COVID- 19 testing.
  • Siblings/staff of ill individual can remain in school until further medical advice is received and should self-monitor for symptoms.
  • Staff and/or students who receive an alternative diagnosis than COVID-19 can return to school if they do not have a fever and their symptoms have been improving for at least 24-48 hours for nausea/vomiting.

Can I go to work if I don’t have any symptoms but my child is ill and we are waiting on results from their COVID-19 test?

If your child is symptomatic and has been tested for COVID-19, you and your family, including siblings, should self-monitor for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. You can continue to go to school and/or work if you have no symptoms.

  • If while self-monitoring symptoms of COVID-19 develop, self-isolate and be tested for COVID-19 (and no longer attend work and school).
  • If any members of your household test positive for COVID-19, you will be contacted by Public Health directly with more detailed advice.

What if there is a positive case in my child’s school?

If a COVID-19 positive case is identified in a school, staff from the Health Unit will provide further instructions on who else in the school may need testing and/or monitoring/isolation at that time. Staff/children who are being managed by public health (e.g. confirmed cases of COVID-19, household contacts of cases, etc.) must follow the instructions provided by the HKPR District Health Unit on when they can return to school.

What if a parent/guardian tests positive for COVID-19?

Parents/guardians are not required to report their test results to their school, however it is recommended. Members of your household are required to self-isolate and should not attend work or school. If your child is at school, your child should be picked up immediately. Staff from the HKPR District Health Unit will be in contact with you for assessment and provide further direction.

Who will declare an outbreak at the school?

The Heath Unit will declare an outbreak after identifying two or more lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases in students and/or staff (or other visitors) in a school with an epidemiological link where at least one case could have reasonably acquired their infection in the school (including transportation and before/after school care).

Examples of reasonably having acquired infection in school include:

  • No obvious source of infection outside of the school setting; OR
  • Known exposure in the school setting

HKPR District Health Unit staff will work closely with the school to determine close contacts of the case and will provide direction on isolation and facilitate testing.

Are masks now mandatory for all students?

Mandatory masking now applies for all students in Grades 1 to 12. Mask use is also required for before- and after-school programs, as well as on school vehicles. While not required, students in Junior and Senior Kindergarten are also encouraged to wear masks.

Masks must now also be worn outdoors when physical distancing can’t be maintained.


Additional Resources

Click on the following for additional support:


For School Board Staff

Click on the following resources for guidance on safe school reopening during COVID-19:

Protocols for Individuals/Schools With COVID-19
Guidance/Checklists for Reopening Schools
For School Bus Drivers/Operators

Updates on Other Health Unit Services in Schools During COVID-19
  • The Health Unit will be providing three vaccines (non-COVID-19 ones) to Grades 7 and 8 students during the 2021/22 school year. These include the Men C-ACYW-135, Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines. Read more for full details.

For Students

Check out these resources to help stay safe at school during the pandemic:

About COVID-19
Washing Hands
COVID-19 Vaccination
Mental Health Support
Fighting Germs
Wearing Masks

Emergency Orders, Directives and Closures

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, different levels of government have put in place the following directives, orders and closures. Please read on for further details.

On This Page:

HKPR District Health Unit

Provincial Orders
  • Ontario has announced plans to lift remaining COVID-19 restrictions by March 2022. This will be a slow and gradual process based on COVID-19 case rates and other key health care indicators (hospital admissions, ICU cases, etc.) staying stable and low. The Ontario government’s full announcement on the timing and gradual lifting of COVID-19 restrictions is available here.
  • Find out the current COVID-19 restriction in place by clicking here.
  • Ontario has released an enhanced vaccine certificate (with QR code) and new Verify Ontario mobile app (that allows businesses to easily scan COVID-19 proof of vaccination for customers and patrons). Get full details here.
  • Ontario is providing third doses of COVID-19 vaccines to certain vulnerable, high-risk groups.
  • Anyone 12 years of age and older is now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Click here for the latest information on where and how to get COVID-19 vaccination in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes.

Federal Orders 

Mask Use during COVID-19

On This Page:

Wearing masks/face coverings is an important way to reduce the risk of COVID-19. That’s why it’s important to know when and how to properly wear a mask.

NOTE: The Ontario government is mandating the use of face coverings in all public indoor settings across the province, such as businesses, facilities and workplaces, with limited exemptions. For complete details, click here.

The Province now recommends wearing a mask or face covering outdoors when you can’t maintain 2 metres physical distance from others outside your household. 

Medical Masks (like surgical and N-95):
close up White protective hygenic mask isolated backgrounds for doctors and patient from virus biological infection and PM2.5 dust, pandemic news

Medical masks provide extra protection to stop the spread of tiny droplets when you cough or sneeze. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends medical masks be worn by:

  • Anyone who has tested for or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People caring for someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who live in an overcrowded setting with someone who has tested positive or has symptoms of COVID-19.
  • People who are at risk of more severe disease or outcomes from COVID-19.
  • People who are at higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 because of their living situation.

Masks MUST be put on, taken off and thrown out properly. If you need to wear a mask, be sure to clean your hands frequently with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. When wearing a mask, follow this Public Health Ontario fact sheet  on how to properly wear and throw away one.


Homemade (Cloth) Masks:

The Ontario government is now mandating that masks have to be worn in all indoor public places across the province (with some exceptions).

When worn properly, non-medical masks can help to cover your mouth and nose to prevent your respiratory droplets from contaminating other people or landing on common surfaces. The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) advises that putting on a homemade mask can help protect others around you if you’re ill with COVID-19 and do not yet know it. PHAC is also recommending that masks or face coverings should be made of at least three layers, including:

  • Two layers made of tightly woven material fabric, such as cotton and
  • A third (middle) layer made of a filter-type fabric, such as non-woven polypropylene.

NOTE: People shouldn’t throw away their two-layer non-medical masks. If making or buying more masks, consider the three-layer mask for improved protection.

Wearing a face mask in public places, together with washing your hands with soap and water, staying home and maintaining physical distancing, are all important to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Homemade masks or facial coverings should not be worn/put on by:

  • Children under age 2 years, or a child under the age of five years either chronologically or developmentally
  • A person who is unable to remove a mask without assistance
  • Anyone who cannot safely wear a non-medical mask or face covering due to medical reasons such as, but not limited to, respiratory disease, cognitive difficulties or difficulties in hearing or processing information

Click here for specific information on mask use regulations currently in effect in Ontario.


Double Masking

Double-masking means wearing one face mask on top of another. An example is wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. This resulted in new CDC guidelines for Americans on improving mask fit, which includes adding layers of material to a mask (either by using cloth masks with multiple layers of fabric, or by wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask).

This change comes as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are circulating. So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not changed its recommendations on mask use in Canada. In November 2020, PHAC did update its recommendations to say non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers, with the middle layer being a filter-type fabric.

Currently in Ontario, you must wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin inside any business or public place. Properly wearing a mask inside public spaces and maintaining 2 metres physical distance from others are important measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but can help protect others.

While there is no instruction to ‘double mask’ in Canada, consider doing so if it makes you feel more comfortable (taking care to ensure it does not make breathing difficult). Add an extra layer to your cloth mask or try wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

The best advice to prevent COVID-19 remains staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with other people you do not live with.


How to Properly Use a Homemade Mask/Face Covering:  
  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
  • Do not share cloth masks with others
  • Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
  • Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside. 
  • Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
  • Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
    • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
    • Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
    • Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
  • Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.
  • For ideas on making your own homemade cloth masks, visit this Public Health Agency of Canada masks resource page.

Summary Do’s and Don’ts for Using Homemade Masks/Face Coverings

Do:

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting on and immediately after taking off a face covering or face mask
  • Practise good hand hygiene while you are wearing the face covering
  • Make sure the face covering fits well around your nose and mouth
  • Avoid moving the mask around or adjusting it often
  • Avoid touching the covering while using it
  • Change the face covering or face mask when it gets slightly wet or dirty

Do Not:

  • Share face coverings or face masks with others
  • Place on children under the age of two years or on anyone unable to remove without assistance or who has trouble breathing
  • Use plastic or other non-breathable materials as a face covering or face mask

Rides to Help Get You to COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics

Below are some options to call if you need help getting to your COVID-19 vaccine appointment. 

Northumberland County: 
  • Community Care Northumberland – If you have a scheduled COVID-19 vaccine appointment and require transportation, call Community Care Northumberland at 1-866-768-7778 to register and arrange a ride to and from the vaccine clinic. 
City of Kawartha Lakes: 
  • City of Kawartha Lakes Community Care – Provides free (accessible) transportation to vaccination clinics for any individuals who require it.  Call 705-324-7323 and provide as much advance notice as possible to ensure a ride.  
Haliburton County: 
  • Haliburton County may have transportation options to suit your needs. Click here to find out what is available. 
Still Need Help?

If none of these options work, please call 1-866-888-4577 ext. 5020 and the Health Unit will be able to discuss how best to support your vaccination needs. 

Parades, Memorial Services and Outdoor Holiday Events

Attending a parade or outdoor holiday event?  Stay safe during COVID-19.

Current Rules:
  • There are NO capacity limits for outdoor organized public events, like parades, memorial services and similar events.
  • Masks must be worn at these events if two metre physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Limits on the number of people who can gather for outdoor social gatherings remains at no more than 100 people. Social gatherings are private functions like barbecues and family celebrations not open to the general public.
Attending an Organized Public Event
  • Stay home if sick, even if symptoms are mild
  • Maintain two-metres physical distance from anyone outside your household.
  • If physical distancing cannot be maintained, you must wear a mask or face covering
  • Follow all COVID-19 guidance from event organizers. Check ahead that the event you want to attend is open to the public, and not by invitation only
  • Find a location at the event that is less crowded with people
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently
  • Consider participating virtually or not attending the event if you are at higher risk for serious illness from COVID-19. This includes older adults and individuals who are immunocompromised or have underlying medical conditions.
Marking the Day at Home

If you are uncomfortable attending an event in-person, find ways to mark it at home:

  • Watch a parade, memorial service or holiday event on television or online.
  • Find other ways to celebrate the holidays. Decorate your home or do other fun activities to get into the festive spirit.
  • If unable to attend a tree or holiday lighting ceremony, go back at a less busy time to see the lights and decorations.
Organizing an Outdoor Public Event:

If you’re organizing an outdoor public event, be aware of the current COVID-19 rules and regulations.

  • Ensure all attendees wear masks if they cannot maintain 2 metres physical distance.
  • Ask people to stay home if stick
  • If possible, ask attendees not to crowd together but to spread out as much as possible.
  • If desired, consider safer, alternative ways to organize the event. For example, make it invitation only and offer ways for the general public to take part in the event virtually.
  • Rope off the ceremony area for only invited guests to maintain crowd control.
  • Keep a list of all invited guests and their contact information.

If you have further questions about your event, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020, or email info@hkpr.on.ca.

Use of Masks and Face Coverings Inside Public Spaces

Currently, masks and face coverings must now be worn inside all public places across the province, including businesses, facilities and workplaces. Limited exemptions are in place, including for age, medical reasons, and special accommodations.

The provincial masking requirement is made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act (specifically Ontario Regulation 263/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 2 and Ontario Regulation 364/20 – Rules for Areas in Stage 3). The aim of the directive is to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

For more details, please read the the following FAQs and resources. You can also contact the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 or info@hkpr.on.ca for additional direction.

If you have additional questions about mask use at your business or workplace, refer to your COVID-19 Safety Plan, consult with your Joint Health and Safety Committee, or contact the Ministry of Labour at 1-877-202-0008.


Who is Affected?

If you own, operate or are responsible for a business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating under Ontario’s plan for reopening, you must have rules in place to inform people about the need to wear a mask or face covering before entering your establishment. Certain exemptions do apply on the use of masks in these indoor settings.

Most indoor settings are covered under the rules, including businesses, stores, malls/plazas, restaurants, places of worship, public libraries, real estate open houses, personal care services (relating to the hair or body), food courts, fitting rooms, driving instruction services, sports and recreation facilities (like gyms, yoga/dance studios, and fitness facilities), children’s camps, movie theatres, performing arts centres, casinos/bingo halls/gaming establishments, and racing venues, cultural centres (museums, art galleries, etc.).

Long-term care homes and retirement homes also require masks to be worn by staff and essential visitors.

Are there places where masks/face coverings do not need to be worn?

The Ontario government is now mandating face coverings be worn across the province. This includes:

  • Public spaces (for example, inside stores, event spaces, entertainment facilities and common areas in hotels).
  • Workplaces, even those that are not open to the public.
  • Vehicles that operate as part of a business or organization, including taxis and rideshares.

According to the Province, establishments in which face coverings are not required are: correctional facilities; university dorms or other similar dwellings (except when you are in common areas and can’t maintain 2 metres from others); residences for people with developmental disabilities; and instances in which people are performing/rehearsing for a film/TV production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

Masks can also be temporarily removed for:

  • Receiving services that require you to take it off (for example, going to the dentist).
  • Exercising in a gym/fitness centre
  • Eating or drinking at a restaurant
  • Health and safety purposes (as necessary)

Are churches/places of worship covered under the masking rules?

Yes, mask use is required in churches or places of worship. Attendees to religious services/rites or ceremonies must wear masks at all times, while maintaining a physical distance of 2 metres (6 feet) from others. For additional directions on mask use and COVID-19 prevention measures in places of worship, click here.

Why are masks and face coverings required inside public places?

Wearing non-medical masks or face coverings (2+ layers are recommended) inside public places is another way to stop the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true as more businesses and public spaces reopen. With new, more contagious COVID-19 variants now circulating locally and in Ontario, the risk of illness is still there and precautions must continue to be taken.

Evidence supports wearing a mask when inside public places is an important measure in reducing COVID-19 transmission. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but may help protect others. Along with physical distancing, frequent handwashing, cough/sneeze hygiene, and staying home when ill, the use of a non-medical mask or face covering inside public places is another way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

What areas of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are subject to the non-medical mask and face covering requirements?

If staff/workers are performing tasks indoors that require them to be less than 2 metres from an unmasked or improperly masked individual without a barrier (e.g. Plexiglass, partition, wall), masks and other appropriate Personal Protective Equipment must be worn to ensure proper protection for eyes, nose and mouth.

Customers and patrons entering a business must also wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, unless exempted (see next question/answer for details). Masks must also be worn if people line up inside or outside the business (while maintaining physical distancing), as well as when accessing personal care services (like hair salons, barbershops, and tanning salons).

Are there times when you do not have to wear a face covering?

The Ontario government is now mandating the use of face coverings across the province. Below are the only situations when you do not need to wear a face covering:

  • Children do not have to wear a face covering indoors if they are younger than two years old.
  • If you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to wear a face covering, are unable to put on or remove a face covering without someone else’s help, and are receiving accommodations according to the Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).
  • In correctional facilities or youth detention centres.
  • In university dorms or other similar dwellings, except when you are in a common area and can’t maintain 2 metres (6 feet) from others.
  • If you are performing or rehearsing for a film/television production, concert, artistic event or theatrical performance.

You can also temporarily take off your face covering to:

  • Receive services that require you to take it off (e.g. at the dentist, getting a facial)
  • Take part in an athletic or fitness activity
  • To eat or drink
  • As necessary for health and safety purposes.

What happens if patrons don’t wear a mask?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public and currently operating under Ontario’s reopening rules must have a COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure people are informed of the requirement to wear a mask or face covering that covers their nose, mouth and chin when entering or remaining in an indoor public space.

A COVID-19 Safety Plan (provincial template or HKPR sample resource) describes how a business or establishment will keep employees, volunteers, patrons, and other people safe, including the wearing of masks/face coverings.

People in an enclosed public space who remove their mask for extended periods of time, will receive a verbal reminder of the requirement to wear a mask under these instructions. Failure to comply with the masking requirements could lead to a fine.

Do I have to disclose my medical condition if I don’t wear a mask?

No one is required to disclose a medical condition or reason why they are exempt from wearing a mask. Medical documentation does not need to be provided either. All a person has to say is that: “I am not able to wear a mask.”

People who are responsible for a place of business/facility that is indoors and open to the public should respect this answer. For privacy reasons, owners/operators are not allowed to ask specifics on why someone cannot wear a mask. All that owners/operators are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

It is recognized there are a variety of reasons why a person cannot wear a mask and people are asked to continue to be kind to each other and support everyone in the community as we work together to stop the spread of the virus. 

The requirement to have people wear masks within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is not meant to stigmatize people who are unable to wear a mask due to medical reasons or their age.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. To protect their staff and customers, some businesses may offer their service in another way (such as through curbside pickup, delivery services) without allowing someone to enter without a mask.

To avoid potential problems, call ahead to a business to see what its policy is regarding masking and to see if curbside pickup or delivery service options are available.

Why can’t mask use be a voluntary decision?

Although there has been information and messaging shared on the public health benefits of wearing a mask when physical distancing is a challenge, many people will still not wear a mask. Many of the people who are now testing positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic and do not realize they are ill. If they do not wear a mask in public, they can easily spread the virus to other, more vulnerable people within the community.

The requirement to wear a mask within a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public is meant to serve as a reminder to everyone who can wear a mask, that they should be doing so to help protect others.

How is this being enforced?

Every owner/operator of a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public will have a COVID-19 Safety Plan that outlines the requirements for customers/patrons to wear a mask or face covering when entering the premises.

Employees and operators will provide a verbal reminder to any customer entering the premises without a mask that the customer should be wearing a mask as a result of this directive.

Implementation of this will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

Public Health Inspectors from the HKPR District Health Unit, as well as municipal bylaw and local police officers, will be involved in providing additional education and enforcement to operators of commercial establishments.

What are the fines?

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those who do not comply with the above noted requirements may be liable for a fine of: $750 – $1,000 for an individual owner/operator of a commercial establishment, to a maximum of $100,000 or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

Are both businesses and customers subject to fines?

As noted above, implementation of this restriction will be enacted and enforced in ‘good faith’ and will be primarily used as a means to educate people on mask use in public spaces.

As per the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, those businesses that do not comply with the instructions may be liable for a fine of $750 to $1,000 for an individual, to a maximum of $100,000, or in the case of a corporation, not more than $10,000,000 for each day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

What would be the best way for store owners to address the issue if patrons don’t have or refuse to wear a mask for both reasons that are legitimate and those that are not?

People who are responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise. 

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

For privacy reasons, if you are someone who is responsible for a place of business or facility that is indoors and open to the public, you cannot ask patrons the reasons they cannot wear a mask. All you are required to do is make patrons and members of the public aware of the mask use requirement.

Do restaurant servers need to wear masks?

Servers must wear a mask and eye protection, as part of the required Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Is it mandatory that employees working in retail stores are required to wear masks?

Yes. The COVID-19 Safety Plan must describe the requirements of wearing masks or face coverings, and the wearing of PPE.

Are staff and customers still required to wear a mask if there is a plexiglass barrier between them?

Yes, a barrier is not sufficient to stop the droplet transmission of the virus. When both parties are wearing a mask, it protects both the staff and the customer from the potential spread of the virus.

Can I remove my mask or face covering if physical distancing is not a concern in the establishment or enclosed public space I am visiting?

Members of the public are permitted to temporarily remove a mask for the following reasons:

  • Receiving services (including eating or drinking when dine-in services are allowed), 

OR

  • While actively engaging in an athletic or fitness activity including water-based activities.

Ensure you wash your hands using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after removing your mask or face covering.

What should store owners and staff do if a customer does not/cannot wear a mask?

Owners/operators and staff of commercial establishments are asked to use their “best effort” to ensure patrons and members of the public wear a mask while in the commercial premise. This means offering a verbal reminder to the patron that mask use is required within the establishment or a verbal reminder about mask use if the person removes the mask while in the premise.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

I work in a hot commercial kitchen/warehouse. Do I need to wear a mask?

If you work in a commercial establishment, a mask should be worn when interacting with the members of the public inside. You may want to contact your Ministry of Labour representative to clarify if mask and/or Personal Protective Equipment is required in your situation to avoid a potential fine.

Who do I call if I want to report a business not requiring customers to wear a mask?

To report a non-complying business, or for more information on the Health Unit’s instructions to places of business or facilities that are indoors and open to the public to require the use of masks by patrons, call the Health Unit toll-free at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5020 or submit a complaint electronically.

Can a person be refused service for not wearing a non-medical mask or face covering?

The implementation should be enforced in “good faith” and any person not wearing a mask will receive a verbal reminder from the staff of the establishment.

No one should be denied service if they cannot wear a mask. However, service may be offered in an alternate way (such as curbside pickup, delivery) without allowing an unmasked person to enter the facility.

How do I choose a non-medical mask or face covering?

In choosing a non-medical mask, ensure it is:

  • Made of 2+ layers of tightly woven fabric (such as cotton or linen)
  • Well-fitted with ear loops or ties
  • A comfortable fit against your face and allows you to breathe easily without having to adjust it
  • Large enough to completely cover the nose and mouth without gaping
  • Durable to allow you to frequently wash and dry it without losing its shape

Other options for non-medical masks include wearing a bandana or scarf, or making one out of a T-shirt or a bandana. The Public Health Agency of Canada also offers instructions on how to make a homemade face coverings.

Are face shields allowed?

A face shield is not a substitute for wearing a face mask as it does not filter respiratory droplets. A face shield may provide additional protection for the wearer against droplets expelled from another person, however these droplets may still be inhaled around the shield. Respiratory droplets expelled by the wearer may escape around the sides of the face shield, which therefore provides less protection to others. If you choose to wear a face shield, we recommend – if possible – to wear it in addition to a properly fitted cloth masks.

If I can’t wear a mask, can I wear a face shield?

A face shield would not be considered an equal substitute for a face mask as it does not provide filtering capacity. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) supports the use of face shields as a “better than nothing” alternative to face masks if there is a shortage of non-medical masks or for populations who are not able to properly wear non-medical masks, such as individuals with a respiratory condition that prevents them from wearing a mask. The WHO makes note that face shields are inferior to face masks at preventing the spread of an infection through droplets and at a minimum should extend below the chin and cover the sides of the face. 

What is the proper way to use a non-medical mask or face covering?

  • Wash your hands immediately before putting it on and immediately after taking it off (use good hand hygiene while wearing it too)
  • Masks should fit snugly, but comfortably against your face (non-gaping) allowing you to breathe without restriction. Masks should be secured with ties or ear loops and have multiple fabric layers
  • Do not share cloth masks with others
  • Remember not to touch or rub your eyes while wearing it
  • Avoid moving, adjusting or touching your mask while using it, as it could become contaminated on the outside.
  • Change face coverings if they get slightly wet or dirty
  • Wash the cloth mask after each use as it can get damp or dirty:
  • Put it directly into the washing machine or a bag that can be emptied into the washing machine and then disposed of
  • Cloth masks can be laundered with other items using a hot cycle, and then dried thoroughly.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after putting the mask into the laundry.
  • Homemade masks that cannot be washed should be thrown out in a properly lined garbage bin as soon as they get damp, dirty or crumpled. Do not throw used masks on the ground or in a shopping cart. Immediately after wash your hands with soap and water.

Watch this How to Use a Cloth Mask Video for additional tips. 

What is double masking? Is it now recommended given the new, more contagious COVID-19 variants of concern circulating in Ontario?

Double-masking means wearing one face mask on top of another. An example is wearing a disposable mask underneath a cloth mask.

In early 2021, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research that found wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask offers more protection against the coronavirus, as does tying knots on the ear loops of surgical masks. This resulted in new CDC guidelines for Americans on improving mask fit, which includes adding layers of material to a mask (either by using cloth masks with multiple layers of fabric, or by wearing a disposable mask under a cloth mask).

This change comes as new, more contagious COVID-19 variants are circulating. So far, the Public Health Agency of Canada has not changed its recommendations on mask use in Canada. In November 2020, PHAC did update its recommendations to say non-medical masks should be made of at least three layers, with the middle layer being a filter-type fabric.

Currently in Ontario, you must wear a non-medical mask or face covering that covers your nose, mouth and chin inside any business or public place. Properly wearing a mask inside public spaces and maintaining 2 metres physical distance from others are important measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Masks will not stop you from getting COVID-19, but can help protect others.

While there is no instruction to ‘double mask’ in Canada, consider doing so if it makes you feel more comfortable (taking care to ensure it does not make breathing difficult). Add an extra layer to your cloth mask or try wearing a cloth mask over a disposable mask.

The best advice to prevent COVID-19 remains staying home as much as possible and avoiding contact with other people you do not live with.


Additional Resources

Posters For Businesses/Commercial Establishments

How to Use/Wear a (3-Layer) Cloth Mask Video – HKPR District Health Unit Video

Places of Worship during COVID-19

On This Page:


Latest Situation

NEW! – As of Oct. 25, places of worship and other locations where a wedding, funeral or religious service/rite/ceremony takes place can choose to implement proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for people attending these events. In exchange, current capacity limits and physical distancing rules can be lifted.

Under Ontario’s current COVID-19 restrictions, the following is allowed:

  • Indoor and outdoor weddings, funerals and religious services can take place.
  • Capacity at these services is limited to the number of people who can distance at least two metres. NOTE: This limit is removed if the venue hosting the service implements proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Masks/face coverings must be worn inside. Mask use is also recommended outdoors if you cannot stay 2 metres apart from someone outside your household
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies can still be offered
  • Consider livestreaming services for those who are unable or do not feel comfortable attending in-person
  • Receptions are permitted, with up to 25 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors

Read on for additional ways to protect the health and safety of your members and congregants by taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.


COVID-19 Vaccination
  • Encourage members to get both doses of their COVID-19 vaccines, so they are fully protected against the virus.
  • Consider helping members arrange a vaccination, especially if they find it challenging or difficult to navigate their way to get a dose. Click here for COVID-19 vaccination clinic information in the area.

Use of Non-Medical Masks Face Coverings During Religious Services

Everyone must wear a mask at all times when indoors attending a place of worship. The only exceptions are anyone who:

  • Is younger than two years of age;
  • Has a medical condition that inhibits their ability to wear a mask or face covering
  • Is unable to put on or remove a mask or face covering without help from another person.
  • Needs to temporarily remove their mask or face covering while in the indoor area, as it may be necessary for the purposes of health and safety.
  • Is being reasonably accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code or the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005).
  • Performs work for the business or organization, is in an area that is not accessible to members of the public, and is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres (6 feet) from every other person while in the indoor area.

This last point may allow priests, ministers or other worship leaders to remove their mask during the mass (or service) when preaching to the congregation from a lectern or pulpit, so long as the area is separated by at least four metres from other people.

The priest, minister or worship leader must wear a mask when greeting people as they come in or leave the place of worship, and during communion.

A place of worship should consult with its local police service or municipal bylaw enforcement, as they may have a different interpretation and require a priest, minister or worship leader to wear a mask at all times.


Weddings and Funerals

The following measures apply to weddings and funerals:

  • Indoor and outdoor weddings, funerals and religious services are allowed.
  • Capacity at these services is limited to the number of people who can distance at least two metres. NOTE: Capacity limits are removed if the venue hosting the service implements proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
  • Receptions are permitted, with up to 25 people indoors and a maximum of 100 people outdoors.
  • Mask use and physical distancing rules apply.
  • Drive-in services, rites or ceremonies are permitted, with certain conditions
  • Virtual services are allowed

Proof of Vaccine Requirements for Weddings and Funerals

  • Proof of COVID-19 vaccines are not required to attend a funeral service or wedding ceremony, but venues hosting these types of events may choose to require proof of vaccination for attendees.
  • Proof of vaccination or a valid exemption is now required to attend any wedding reception in Ontario (including those held in conference/conventions centres and places of worship)
  • For a reception or gathering associated with a funeral, the following applies:
    • Proof of vaccination is not required if the event is held in a place of worship, funeral home, crematorium, or similar establishment
    • Proof of vaccination or valid exemption is required if the event is held in meeting or event spaces (like conference or conventions centres)

General COVID-19 Preventive Tips for Places of Worship
  • Encourage everyone to get their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Maintain physical distancing by staying two metres (six feet) apart at all times.
  • Anyone who is feeling sick must 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.
  • Do NOT shake hands or hug.  
  • Remind people to cough/sneeze into their sleeves. 
  • Discourage group singing. Use audio or video recordings instead.
  • 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).
  • 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 to Members/Congregants in Other Ways
  • Continue to offer virtual or live-streamed services, especially for people who may still feel uncomfortable attending a service in-person.
  • 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. 

Additional Resources:

Download and print resources below:

Apartments and Multi-Unit Dwellings

If you own or manage a multi-unit building, it’s important to protect your tenants from COVID-19. Proper screening, cleaning, physical distancing and other measures are essential to reduce the spread of illness. Here’s what you need to do:

Screening

Handwashing and Respiratory Etiquette

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Increase cleaning and disinfecting, especially in common areas. High-touch surfaces (like doorknobs, light switches, phones, elevator buttons, stairwells, shared washrooms and garbage facilities) should be cleaned and disinfected at least twice per day, and when visibly dirty.
  • Be careful when handling waste, and ensure you wash hands thoroughly afterwards with soap and running water. Line garbage cans with plastic bags if possible and avoid direct contact with soiled items in the garbage
  • For Shared Laundry Rooms: Both sick and healthy households need to use laundry rooms to wash dirty laundry.  Clean and disinfect the machine controls frequently.  You may also need to put up limits to the number of people in the laundry room at a time, to ensure physical distancing. Put up this poster for tips on using shared laundry facilities.

Mask Use

Physical Distancing

  • Promote physical distancing in your building. Urge people to keep 2 metres (6 feet) apart – roughly the length of a hockey stick. Put up this poster in all common areas to send a clear message.
  • Put in place measures at your building to reinforce physical distancing. Stagger times to use laundry facilities, limit the number of people gathering in shared spaces, and move furnishings like chairs further apart to create more space.  
  • Limit capacity on elevators to ensure physical distancing. Post a sign indicating no more than two or three people should use the elevator at once. 

What to do If Tenants/Residents Show COVID-19 Symptoms

  • Individuals in a private unit who show COVID-19 symptoms MUST self-isolate for the required period and not leave home, unless they need medical care. If possible, check in with them by phone, email or text. Offer to get food/supplies and leave items at their doorway, ensuring no close contact.
  • If someone with COVID-19 symptoms lives in a shared space, support them to safely self-isolate by ensuring they stay in a separate room, use a separate washroom (if possible) and keep a 2 metre distance from others. If this isn’t possible, review this link 
  • If someone experiences severe COVID-19 symptoms, seek immediate medical care. 
  • Be a good neighbour. Check in on people who may need assistance with getting groceries if they are self isolating. This reduces the need for them to leave their apartment.

Reducing Harm When Using Drugs

Do you use substances or other drugs? Reduce your risk of harm to avoid overdoses and infections. Read on for more information.


On This Page:

Safety Tips if Using Drugs:
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Extra Precautions During COVID-19
  • If you are feeling sick, do not leave home. Ask a buddy to pick up supplies including naloxone from harm reduction sites or outreach workers. Arrange to have the supplies dropped off at your door, being sure to practise physical distancing 
  • Do not share supplies (cigarettes, joints, pipes, injecting equipment, containers for alcohol, utensils, and other supplies). Use your own mouthpiece and keep it only for YOUR use
  • Avoid handshakes, hugs, kisses, and other close contact
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer before preparing, handling, or using drugs. Prepare your own drugs
  • If you cannot wash your hands with soap or use hand sanitizer, use alcohol-based hand wipes
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or use tissues. Throw tissues away immediately and wash your hands
  • It’s strongly recommended you clean surfaces with soap and water, alcohol wipes, bleach, or hydrogen peroxide before preparing drugs
  • If you share a washroom with others, clean and disinfect surfaces like knobs, taps, and flushers. Use soap and water, bleach, hydrogen peroxide or alcohol-based wipes (70%) after every use. Do not mix different types of cleaning solutions
  • Buddy up if using drugs, but be safe! COVID-19 is passed by droplets, so you must stay 2 metres (six feet) – roughly the length of a hockey stick – from your buddy to avoid passing the virus
  • Using with a buddy is safer than using drugs alone, but remember to keep your physical distance! Buddies may be able to bring food, harm reduction supplies, medicine, and substances so that you can stay well. You can also be a buddy to others who need support. Check in on your buddies regularly and have them do the same for you
  • Carry naloxone and have an overdose plan. If necessary, you can perform chest compressions. Do not do rescue breathing due to COVID-19 concerns
  • If you must use drugs by yourself, call a buddy to have him/her regularly check in on you.
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What to Do if You See or Experience a Drug Overdose
  • If you see someone overdosing, call 9-1-1 and give the person naloxone.
  • The Good Samaritan Act offers legal protection for someone to help in an emergency. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act protects anyone on scene of an overdose from being charged for possessing/using drugs

If using a naloxone kit, refer to the Five Steps to Respond to an Opioid Overdose sheet. Take these extra precautions too:

  • Stimulate: try and rouse the person, encourage them to take breaths
  • If no response: call 9-1-1, give naloxone and perform chest compressions. DO NOT try doing rescue breathing
  • When using a naloxone kit: put gloves on, but do not use the face shield/breathing barrier for rescue breaths (not advised given COVID-19 situation)
  • After responding, properly remove gloves and throw them in the garbage. Wash/clean hands thoroughly
  • If chest compressions are needed, place a towel or a piece of clothing over the person’s nose and mouth to protect yourself from droplets.
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Why Harm Reduction Works
  • Harm reduction is a term that applies to any program, service or action that reduces the risk of injury and illness. If you have applied sunscreen or buckled up a seatbelt, you’ve embraced harm reduction.
  • When it comes to substance use, harm reduction provides strategies and ideas to reduce the consequences of drug use and other health risks. Harm reduction meets people where they’re at in their substance use and provides programs and services to help them enhance their skills and knowledge to live safer and healthier lives.
  • Harm reduction works! Learn more.
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Additional Resources
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Service Providers Working With Vulnerable Clients

It’s essential to slow the spread of COVID-19, especially to vulnerable clients. If you are a service provider working with vulnerable clients, you can access link/resources below to protect the health of staff, volunteers and clients. 

General Tips
  • Access  short Health Unit video modules  on how to keep your workplace/organization safe during COVID-19. 
  • Screen your staff/ volunteers and clients for COVID-19 symptoms before they start work or enter the building. Use these online Provincial COVID-19 Screening Tools for Employees/Workers and for Customers/Clients. You can also use this screening tool from the HKPR District Health Unit.
  • Encourage your staff and volunteers to get their COVID-19 vaccine so they are fully protected against the virus.
  • Maintain a clean and safe environment 
  • Staff and volunteers MUST stay home when sick 
  • Post signs on wearing a mask/face covering, washing hands with soap and water, and covering sneezes/coughs.
  • Practise physical distancing 
  • Increase surface cleaning/ disinfection especially on high-touch surfaces 
  • Clients/participants MUST NOT share items (e.g. drinking cups, utensils) 
  • Develop an organizational plan to protect your staff, volunteers and clients from getting COVID-19. Consider how to: provide isolation for those who require it, modify service delivery based on staff capacity, and reduce fears, barriers and stigma around COVID-19 by providing credible information.
  • Prepare and plan for operations with reduced staff and fewer volunteers. Also consider services that may need to quickly decrease or ramp up depending on the situation.
  • Contact 211 Community Support to find/search government and community-based services during COVID-19.  Call or text 2-1-1 day or night to find support for all of life’s challenges. Live Chat also available Monday to Friday from 7 am to 9 pm. 

For Homeless Shelters and Service Providers 

For Food Banks/Food Program Providers 

If you are feeling ill, stay at home and away from others

Vaccine

Physical Distancing: 

  • Change the layout of your centre so there is enough space for staff, volunteers and clients to maintain physical distance
  • Remove client wait areas. Get people to wait outdoors (weather permitting). Use pylons or tape spaced 2 metres apart to guide clients on where to stand in line. 
  • Mark or assign work stations so that staff/volunteers can maintain a 2-metre distance apart.
  • Limit the number of clients in the centre at one time.
  • Stagger arrivals and departures to reduce client contact.
  • Allow staff and volunteers to fill out any forms or paperwork on behalf of clients. (NOTE: Clients must be able to view and verbally verify the information documented is correct. Staff and volunteers cannot sign on behalf of a client.)  
  • Extend hours or open on additional days so clients can be spread out.  

Hand Hygiene and Respiratory Etiquette 

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer often. Do this before and after receiving items and making packages for delivery.
  • Provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-90% concentration) and tissues at all entrances and work stations.
  • Remind staff, volunteers and clients to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow or into a tissue. Used tissue must be thrown  into the trash. Wash or sanitize hands after.

Masks/Face Coverings

  • Wear a mask or face covering. NOTE: Face coverings must be worn inside all public spaces (unless exempted due to age or health reasons)
  • Develop a policy and protocols for your organization on mask use.
  • Educate staff and volunteers on proper use and disposal of masks.

Cleaning and Disinfecting

  • Increase surface cleaning and disinfecting on high-touch surfaces (E.g. doorknobs, light switches, all phones, counters, handles on cabinets, fridges, utility or grocery carts, pens, computers stations, etc.) 
  • Use only disinfectants that have an 8-digit Drug Identification Number (DIN). The DIN means a product is approved by Health Canada for use in this country. Click here for a specific list of hard-surface disinfectants that are known to be effective against COVID-19. Chlorine bleach may also be used as a disinfectant.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for the safe use of products for cleaning or disinfecting. This includes ensuring disinfectants are left on surfaces/items for the proper length of time to be effective.  

Food Distribution Considerations: 

  • Contact the client ahead of time to arrange a delivery/pickup time.
  • Let staff and volunteers handle the food for clients. Pre-pack food boxes or bags based on clients’ wishes and pass out food at the door. Food boxes or bags may need to be smaller or lighter for easier delivery/carrying.
  • If delivering packages for clients:
    • Wash or sanitize hands before the delivery.
    • Drop off the package at the client’s door without entering their home.
    • If staff/volunteer must enter the home, put on a mask before entering.  Avoid touching surfaces in the client’s home.  Maintain 2m distance from other people in the home. Wash or sanitize hands when leaving the client’s home. 

Additional Resources

Download and print resources below:

Fact Sheet: Take Care of Yourself and Each Other – Public Health Ontario

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