Last updated: July 31, 2020 at 1:55 p.m.

This page provides guidelines for reopening community agencies.


This is general guidance for community, non-profit and voluntary sector service organizations as they re-open service settings during the COVID-19 pandemic. This general guidance is appropriate for services and programs delivered to groups and individuals in non-clinical and non-residential settings. Tailored resources are available for specialized community and workplace settings. As every organization will be different, it is ultimately the responsibility of management and staff to review their own policies, procedures and site-specific circumstances, and to assess their ability to deliver programs and activities while ensuring that the appropriate infection prevention and control measures are implemented and maintained.

For information about how to assess COVID-19 risks and to plan risk modification for your service setting, please refer to the Toronto Public Health Four Step Risk Assessment and Risk Mitigation Guide for Community Non-Profit Services and Programs. Stay up to date with COVID-19 Orders under the provincial Reopening Ontario Act, as well as City of Toronto orders and bylaws and Toronto Public Health (TPH) guidance at

COVID-19 Transmission

Respiratory transmission: COVID-19 is an illness that is spread mainly from person-to-person through close contact from respiratory droplets of someone with COVID-19. The respiratory droplets can travel up to two metres/six feet when we cough, sneeze, talk or sing.

Contaminated surfaces: It is possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or eyes. This new coronavirus can survive on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to 72 hours.

At-risk populations: The risk of severe illness from COVID-19 is greater for older adults, and people with an underlying medical condition or a weakened immune system (e.g. due to a medical condition or treatment). People living on a low income, who are under-housed or experiencing homelessness, or living in congregate settings such as retirement homes or rooming houses may also be disproportionally impacted by the virus. Organizations should consider the vulnerability of employees, volunteers, clients and visitors when planning their services and programs.

Protective Measures to Keep Everyone Safe

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Keep a two metre/six feet distance from others, when possible.
  • Wash your hands often, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow.
  • Wear a face mask or covering when you are in an enclosed, public setting.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Promote Healthy Behaviours

Practice physical distancing

  • Physical distancing means keeping a distance of two meters/six feet from others.
  • Maintain physical distancing by limiting the number of people (including all clients, employees and volunteers) onsite at one time.
  • Remind clients and staff to greet each other using non-physical gestures (e.g. wave or nod).
  • Physical distancing must not compromise supervision or safety.

Increase public health awareness

  • Communicate to clients, volunteers and employees about the changes you have made to protect them against COVID-19 by updating information on your website, voice mail, etc.
  • Download printable posters and display in high visibility areas in your setting to promote messages about how to stay safe during COVID-19.

Support and promote proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration, provided hands are not visibly soiled.
  • Remind staff and participants to avoid touching their face, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve.
  • Post Hand Washing, Cover your Cough and Hand Sanitizing signage in visible locations.
  • Ensure that staff and clients have the ability to practice hand hygiene often, and when needed:
    • Incorporate hand hygiene into breaks between activities and before and after snacks/ meals.
    • Supervise/assist clients with hand hygiene if necessary.
  • Provide accessible hand sanitizer stations.
  • Monitor supplies to ensure adequate amounts of liquid soap, paper towel, (air dryer if paper towels are not available), hand sanitizer, tissues and waste receptacles with lined plastic bags.
  • Use of disposable gloves is not a substitute for proper hand hygiene. If staff or clients use gloves, it is important to change gloves when changing tasks, or more often, as necessary. Wash hands with soap and water for 15 seconds before putting on and after taking off gloves.

Support and promote proper use of masks

  • Use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required by everyone in all indoor public spaces, as per a new City of Toronto bylaw. Some exceptions apply. Operators are required to develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks. More information is available here.
  • Masks are strongly recommended in outdoor settings when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Alternative ways to provide service to people who cannot wear a mask should be considered. For example, providing service at the end of the day, with no other clients in the location, and keeping a two metre/six foot physical distance as much as possible.

Support and promote healthy commuting

  • Provision of bussing or other transportation is not recommended at this time.
  • If transportation is provided, limit the number of passengers to facilitate physical distancing as much as possible. Also refer to COVID-19 guidance related to taxis and ride sharing.
  • Provide guidance to staff, volunteers and clients who commute via public transit or ride/share/taxi:
    • Wear a mask and open the windows, if possible.
    • Use elbow/arm to push buttons/open doors.
    • Sit in the back when using taxi and ride share.
    • Avoid travel during peak hours, if possible.
    • Avoid touching your face.
    • Do not use transit if you are sick or self-isolating.

Maintain a Healthy Environment

Implement staff health screening

  • Have a flexible employee illness policy so that staff do not come to work sick. Remind all staff about the importance of reporting illness to their supervisor/ manager.
  • Ensure all employees and volunteers complete a health screening questionnaire before each shift.
  • Direct staff who answer YES to any of the screening questions to stay home
  • No one with even one symptom of COVID-19 should enter the workplace.
  • Staff who become sick with COVID-19 symptoms, while at the workplace should go home immediately and contact Telehealth or go to an assessment centre to get tested.
  • Keep up to date with public health advice on when staff may return to work.

Implement client health screening

  • Post signage in visible areas clearly explaining the screening process and the conditions for entry.
  • Designate an area at the entrance of the service setting for screening.
  • Provide hand sanitizer for use at the screening station.
  • The area should allow a minimum of two metres/six feet distance between staff conducting screening and the individual being screened. Alternatively, a protective barrier (e.g. plexiglass) can be set up around the screening station.
  • Ensure clients maintain two metres/six feet from others when waiting to be screened.
  • Actively screen each client individually, prior to entry to the setting, using a health screening questionnaire.
  • Direct clients who answer YES to any of the screening questions to go home and self-isolate, and contact Telehealth or go to an assessment centre to get tested.
  • Where possible, clients attending for an appointment should be screened by phone prior to arrival.
  • Offer to reschedule appointments for clients when they are sick.

Track attendance

  • It is strongly recommended that daily attendance records are maintained for all clients, volunteers and employees, visitors, deliveries/contractors for 30 days to support public health contact tracing efforts (e.g. name, date, time, and contact information).
  • Some people may have concerns about having personal information tracked. It is important to communicate to everyone that that attendance tracking is voluntary, and that information is being collected to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Monitor attendance records for patterns or trends (e.g. clients/staff in the same group absent at the same time or over the course of a few days).
  • Consider following up with clients and staff to determine the reason for any unplanned absences.
  • Contact TPH if there is an increase in absenteeism associated with symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If a client or staff have COVID-19 and were contagious onsite, TPH will investigate and notify those who may have been exposed.

Enhance cleaning and disinfection

  • Review Public Health Ontario’s Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings fact sheet.
  • Refer to Health Canada’s lists of hard-surface disinfectants for use against coronavirus (COVID-19) for information on disinfectants.
  • Post and maintain a log to track cleaning and disinfecting activities.
  • Ensure frequent (minimum twice a day) cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and common areas such as door handles, counters, cabinet doors, light switches, faucets, toilet handles, handrails, touch screen surfaces and keypads.
  • Clean and disinfect individual items (computers, books, handicrafts, cooking items) after each use.
  • Chlorine bleach solutions may be prepared and used for disinfection if appropriate for the surface.
  • Ensure a minimum of two minutes disinfectant contact time and allow to air dry.
  • Ensure single-use items, including masks and gloves, are discarded immediately after use to reduce the risk of contamination. Garbage bins should be lined and disposed of regularly.
  • Remind clients and staff not to share items, including food, dishes, articles of clothing, ear buds, phones or other electronic devices, personal items such as combs or make-up, cigarettes, vapes, supplies, etc.


  • Label and use separate baskets or bags for clean and dirty laundry items. Laundry baskets or reusable bags must be sanitized between uses.
  • Dirty laundry must be placed in a lined laundry bin for washing with hot water and detergent using a washing machine. Dryers should be used as the heat further kills any viruses.

Recommended Modifications for Community Non-Profit Services and Settings

Modify the physical space to facilitate physical distancing

  • Review the TPH Four Step Risk Assessment and Risk Mitigation Guide for Community Non-Profit Services and Programs
  • Walk through your space(s) to identify areas needing modifications.
  • Remove non-essential furniture to allow ease of movement for physical distancing.
  • Space seating and activity stations at least two metres/six feet apart.
  • Provide visual guides such as tape on floors or tables, posters, pylons and flags to delineate two metres/six feet.
  • Limit entrances to reduce staff and clients entering the setting at any given time.
  • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, in hallways, elevators, kitchens and meeting rooms.

Install transparent barriers, where needed

  • Consider installing plexiglass or other physical barriers if physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Barriers do not rely on correct usage to be effective, unlike masks.
  • Barriers protect people on both sides of the barrier, unlike masks.
  • Barriers provide a visible reminder of the importance of maintaining distance.
  • To be effective the barrier must be large enough to create a shield between the breathing zones of the people on either side. A person’s breathing zone has a diameter of about 60 cm (24 inches), which means 30 cm (12 inches) in every direction from a person’s nose.
  • A barrier should be positioned to accommodate the heights of the tallest and shortest people who will likely be near it. If one person is standing and the other is seated, the barrier should extend below the seated person’s nose and above the standing person’s nose.
  • Barriers should also be wide enough to accommodate the normal movement of both people.
  • Download more information about installing effective barriers.

Modify services and programs to facilitate physical distancing

  • Walk through your space to identify areas that may need adjustments to reduce the spread of COVID-19, based on use of the space and traffic patterns.
  • The number of clients allowed in the space should be limited to the number that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres/six feet, and events cannot exceed 50 people (for indoor spaces) or 100 people (for outdoor spaces).
  • Do not have clients wait in a waiting room. Ask clients to call when they arrive and wait outside.
  • Consider virtual activities, modified job responsibilities and telework options.
  • Use telephone or video conferencing when possible for meetings.
  • Stagger or adjust working hours and shifts to reduce the number of staff onsite.
  • If multiple programs are provided onsite, stagger the start/end times to reduce contact between participants from different programs.
  • If multiple programs are provided onsite at the same time, stagger program activities, snack times, meals and washroom breaks to contact between participants from different programs.
  • Where possible, establish cohort groups consisting of the same clients and staff rather than mixing groups.
  • Assign cohort groups a designated room/space.
  • Incorporate and prioritize individual activities that encourage more space between participants so that physical distancing can be maintained.
  • Contact sports, games or activities should not be permitted due to physical distancing requirements.

Modify the use of equipment

  • Offer activities that only use items that can be easily cleaned and disinfected or are single use and disposed of at the end of the day/program (e.g. craft supplies).
  • Minimize the sharing and frequency of touching objects, equipment, surfaces and personal items.
  • Provide individualized, labelled bins for participant’s supplies and items (e.g. craft supplies).
  • Keep participants personal belongings to minimum. Personal items such as water bottles or coffee mugs should be labelled and stored separately.

Workplace Health and Safety

  • Employers must have written measures and procedures for staff safety, including for infection prevention and control.
  • The Province of Ontario has general information on COVID-19 and workplace health and safety. Learn about an employers’ responsibilities and how to protect workers at work.
  • Workers can also get information about health and safety protections at the workplace.

Related Guidance

Toronto Public Health regularly publishes new guidance to support community and workplace settings to re-open during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check the website regularly for new information. The following resources may be relevant for your organization:

Download this information as a PDF.

This is a summary checklist of measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while providing non-clinical community services and programs. For more information see Toronto Public Health’s Four Step Risk Assessment and Mitigation Guide for Community Non-Profits and Guidance for Community Non-Profit Services and Programs.

A. Universal Mask Policy

  • Create a universal indoor mask policy for your agency per By-Law 541-2020, using this sample template
  • Communicate your universal indoor mask policy to all staff, clients and visitors.
  • Non-medical masks/face coverings are available on-site for staff and clients at all times.
  • Masks are used properly and cleaned/discarded appropriately.

B. Staff Health & Screening

  • Staff are advised to report illness to their supervisor/manager and to stay home if sick.
  • Staff are screened before starting each shift.
  • Staff are advised to go home immediately and self-isolate if they become ill during a shift. Staff are advised to call Telehealth/health or their health care provider for guidance to get tested.
  • Staff are trained on proper hand hygiene techniques and respiratory etiquette.

C. Signage at the Premises

D. Number of People in the Setting

  • The number of people in a space is restricted to 10 or less, and physical distancing of two metres/six feet) is required. Smaller spaces may require further reductions in the number of people permitted to ensure physical distancing.
  • Flexible work schedules, staggered lunch and break times are implemented to limit the number of people in the setting at one time.

E. Attendance Records

  • Waiting areas are not permitted. Clients are instructed to wait outside until their scheduled appointment or program begins.
  • Attendance records for staff, volunteer, clients and visitors (e.g. deliveries/contractors), including full name, telephone number, email address, date and time at the agency, are maintained on-site for public health contact tracing purposes, should the need arise.

F. Workstations

  • Workstations and equipment in use are two metres/six feet apart, or equipped with barriers/dividers that are adequate in height to ensure the protection between clients and staff.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 70-90% alcohol concentration is available at each workstation, and staff and clients are encouraged to use it frequently.

G. Environmental Cleaning and Disinfection

  • There is enough time between client programs or appointments to ensure thorough cleaning and disinfection of equipment and workspaces.
  • Work surfaces and equipment are thoroughly cleaned with soap and water before disinfection.
  • Surface and equipment disinfectants are used after cleaning, and according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Cleaning/disinfection wipes are only used for surfaces and used according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • A cleaning log book is maintained to record frequent (at least twice a day) cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch surfaces and common areas such as door handles, counters, cabinet doors, light switches, faucets, toilet handles, handrails, touch screen surfaces and keypads.

Download this information as a PDF.

Guidance for Food Banks & Donation Centres

COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus and can cause acute respiratory illness. In general, these viruses are spread when a sick person coughs or sneezes. COVID-19 is spread person-to-person through large respiratory droplets (e.g. coughing, sneezing) that can travel up to two metres (six feet). It may also be possible for a person to get COVID-19 by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes. The majority of people with COVID-19 develop a mild illness, which may include fever, cough, or shortness of breath. For more general information about COVID-19, visit

Food banks/donation centres should continue to operate and receive items from community members during this time. The following recommendations provide guidance to donation centres that deliver food and other items to members of the community regarding risk reduction.

Advice for food bank/donation centre operators

  • Reduce the risk of transmission during activities:
    • Obtain information from credible sources. Stay up to date with information about COVID-19 on our website at
    • Conduct screening to ensure staff, volunteers and clients are not ill:
      • If you have a phone line, ask staff, volunteers and clients to call prior to their shift/visit and screen them or have a recorded message.
      • Ask people who may have any symptoms of respiratory illness to defer any visits
    • Ask clients, staff, volunteers and other partners to not visit the centre and stay home if they are sick.
    • Staff/volunteers who have travelled outside of Canada, including the United States, must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Canada.
    • Practice physical distancing to ensure a two metre (six feet) separation between staff and clients.
    • To avoid crowding and to support physical distancing, schedule appointments with individuals wishing to pick up/drop-off items.
    • Avoid scheduling large volunteer groups from attending the donation centre at the same time.
    • Ensure sufficient workspace is provided allowing for appropriate distancing (two metres or six feet) between volunteers/staff and to prevent crowding or individuals from grouping together.
    • Enhance cleaning and disinfecting measures of high traffic and frequently touched surfaces.
    • Post signage throughout the food bank/donation centre reminding individuals about ways to protect themselves (e.g. hand hygiene, social distancing, and respiratory etiquette).

Infection prevention and control practices for staff at food banks/donation centres

  • Practice proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette:
    • Hand hygiene includes washing hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, or the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • Increase hand hygiene practices (e.g. before and after receiving items and prior to assembling donation packages for delivery).
    • Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
    • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • Avoid shaking hands; use non-physical forms of greeting.
  • Enhance environmental cleaning and disinfecting:
    • Increase cleaning and disinfection of high traffic areas, and frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g. door knobs, light switches, pens, counters, toilet, sinks, handrails, keypads, touch screens, etc.). High touch surfaces and items in common areas must be cleaned and disinfected at least twice daily.
    • Disinfectants should have a Drug Identification Number (DIN). A DIN is an 8-digit number given by Health Canada that confirms it is approved for use in Canada.
    • Refer to Health Canada’s Drug Product Database online query to search by product name, active ingredient, company etc.
    • Alternatively, chlorine bleach solutions may be used for disinfection.
    • Staff should follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the cleaning agents and disinfectants including:
      • Disinfectant contact times.
      • Safety precautions and required personal protective equipment (e.g. eye protection, masks gloves).
      • Securely storing cleaning and disinfectant supplies.
    • Review Public Health Ontario’s Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings.

Precautions for staff to reduce the risk of transmission during delivery

  • Reduce the risk of transmission during deliveries:
    • Contact clients in advance to schedule a delivery/pick up time, where possible.
    • Pre-bag or box donations into smaller/lighter packages for easier delivery and carrying.
    • Volunteers and staff who are making deliveries to apartments and homes should take the following precautions to protect themselves and their clients:
      • Avoid entering the client’s home if possible. Deliver packages for clients at their front door without entering their home to limit contact.
      • Practice physical distancing and maintain a two metre (six feet) distance from other people.
      • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, and if soap and water is not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
      • Practice hand hygiene after contacting frequently touched surfaces.
      • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
      • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
      • Avoid shaking hands; use non-physical forms of greeting.
      • Cover your cough or sneeze into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
      • If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve or arm.
      • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces (e.g. pens, delivery containers, and surfaces in delivery vehicles).

Precautions for staff entering homes of clients who are unable to carry donation packages from their front door into their home

  • Reduce the risk of transmission:
  • Avoid shaking hands; use non-physical forms of greeting.
  • Avoid touching surfaces in the client’s home.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Practice hand hygiene. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, and if soap and water is not available use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after the delivery.

Download this information as a PDF.