Last updated: October 27, 2020 at 4:10 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 plan and offer services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This 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 health and safety 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 provincial orders under the Reopening Ontario Act, as well as City of Toronto orders and bylaws and Toronto Public Health (TPH) guidance at

Provincial Orders (O. Reg. 263/20)

Community centres and multi-purpose facilities may open for the following purposes if they comply with the conditions below:


  • Communal kitchens in the community centre or multi-purpose facility must be closed.
  • Interior dining spaces in the community centre or multi-purpose facility must be closed.

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 indoor public spaces, and when physical distancing is difficult.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Mask/face coverings for staff and clients

  • 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 and Reg. 263/20. Some exceptions apply.
    • Masks are strongly recommended in outdoor settings when physical distancing is not possible.
  • Operators are required to develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks. More information is available here.
    • 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.

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.
  • 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. Organized groups and social programming cannot exceed 10 people indoors or 25 people outdoors.
  • 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.

Modify the physical space

  • 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 should also be wide enough to accommodate the normal movement of both people.
  • Download more information about installing effective barriers.

Modify services and programming

  • 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.
  • 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 are 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.

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.

Workplace Health and Safety

Employers must have written measures and procedures for staff safety, including for infection prevention and control. Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and customers safe, including:

  • Staff attendance and operations
  • Health screening for staff and customers:
    • Actively screen staff and volunteers before each shift, and clients prior to entering. Questions can be answered on paper, online or by asking people directly.
    • 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.
  • Mask/face coverings for staff and customers
  • Cleaning and disinfection
    • 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.
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    • 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.
  • Managing COVID-19 in the workplace

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.
  • Encourage staff and clients to download the COVID Alert app so they can be notified directly if they have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems

  • Increase the introduction and circulation of outdoor air by maximizing the outdoor air ratio of the HVAC system settings, or by opening windows and doors, where possible. Avoid recirculating air.
  • Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
  • Where provided, use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Increase air-exchanges if possible.
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
    • Seating should be arranged away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).
  • Facilities without HVAC systems should increase ventilation by opening windows and doors. However, do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk to staff and customers.
  • Rooms where ceiling fans are used should have an upward airflow rotation.
  • If portable fans are used, limit the blowing of air across people and surfaces by positioning them to provide an upward movement of air.
  • There is no evidence for the use of portable air purifiers to prevent the spread of COVID-19. If used, follow the manufacturer’s directions (and possibly the advice of a service professional) to decide where best to place the device. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance.
  • For more information, review the COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation fact sheet.

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.

Other Resources

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 mask policy for your agency per as per a new City of Toronto bylaw and Reg. 263/20, which can be based on this sample template.
  • Communicate your universal mask policy to all staff, clients and visitors.
  • Non-medical masks or 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 COVID-19 symptoms to their supervisor/manager and to stay home if sick.
  • Staff are actively screened before starting each shift.
  • If staff become sick with COVID-19 symptoms while at work, they are advised to go home immediately and self-isolate. Instruct them to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, their health care provider or an Assessment Centre 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

  • Organized groups and social gatherings are limited to 10 people or less indoors and 25 people or less outdoors with physical distancing. Smaller spaces may require further capacity reductions to accommodate physical distancing.
  • Waiting areas are not permitted. Clients are instructed to wait outside until their scheduled appointment or program begins.
  • Flexible work schedules, staggered lunch and break times are implemented to limit the number of people in the setting at one time.
  • Communal kitchens and indoor dining spaces are closed.

E. Attendance Records

  • Attendance records are maintained for staff, volunteers, clients and visitors, including: full name, telephone number, email address, date and time at the agency.
  • Information is collected on a voluntary basis and can only be used for COVID-19 contact tracing, should the need arise.
  • Operators are to protect the personal information collected. Records are kept for 30 days, and then shredded.
  • Staff and clients are encouraged to download the COVID Alert app so they can be notified directly if they have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.

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.
  • 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.
  • Ventilation is increased and HVAC systems are properly maintained.

Download this information as a PDF.

The following guidance is intended to support food banks and donation centres that provide and/or deliver food and other items to members of the community to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Food banks/donation centres should continue to operate and receive items from community members during this time.

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 mask or face covering when you are in indoor public spaces, as per the City bylaw, and when you cannot maintain a two metre/six feet distance outdoors.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Practice Physical Distancing

  • Physical distancing means keeping a distance of two metres/six feet from others. Plan and modify the layout of your centre to ensure enough space is provided for staff, volunteers and clients to maintain physical distancing.
  • Calculate the maximum number of clients permitted to maintain physical distancing requirements. Limit the number of clients in the centre at any one time accordingly.
    • The maximum number of clients that should be permitted at any one time can be calculated as one person per two metres squared (four square metres or 43 square feet) of publicly accessible floor space.
  • Designate and manage entry and exit points to control the number of clients entering the centre. If the maximum number of clients is reached, allow one person in for every person that leaves.
    • Schedule appointments with individuals wishing to pick up/drop-off items.
    • Stagger arrivals where possible, to reduce congestion.
  • Avoid scheduling large volunteer groups from attending the donation centre at the same time.
  • Modify and arrange site/floor plan to maintain physical distancing and reduce contact.
    • Arrange, mark and/or assign workstations to ensure minimum two metres/six feet distance between staff and volunteers.
    • Design a flow of traffic that encourages one-way movement with prominent signage and/or floor markings.
  • Monitor and manage client lines outside and within the centre.
    • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, and throughout the centre.
    • Place visual/textural markers spaced two metres/six feet apart (e.g. tape on the floor, pylons, signs) to encourage physical distancing and guide clients and visitors.
    • Assign staff to monitor lines and to make announcements reminding clients to keep two metres/six feet apart.

Bylaw on Use of Masks and Face Coverings

  • Effective July 7, 2020, the use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, as per a new City of Toronto bylaw.
  • Operators are required to develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks. Refer to the guidance on mask and face covering bylaw for a sample policy that your organization can adapt. More information is available here.
  • Educate staff and volunteers on the proper use and disposal of masks.

COVID-19 Screening

  • Use posters to encourage passive screening for clients before entering the centre. Direct anyone who answers YES to any of the screening questions to go home and self-isolate, and contact Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000 or go to an assessment centre to get tested.
    • Be clear that people should not visit the centre if they are ill.
  • Anyone who has travelled outside of Canada, including the United States, must stay home and self-isolate for 14 days after returning to Canada.

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.

Cleaning and Disinfection

  • 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). 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.

Donation of Non-Food Items

  • Fabrics (e.g. clothing/sheets/towels) should be isolated for a minimum of two days. If they cannot be isolated, they should be laundered on high heat settings (wash and dry).
  • Household items that are nonporous, such as items made of plastic, porcelain, etc., should be cleaned and disinfected.
  • Items that cannot be properly cleaned and disinfected should be isolated for seven days.
  • Donors who are sick should avoid donating.
  • Clients/customers should launder clothing after receipt/purchase.

Workplace Health & Safety

  • Review the COVID-19 Guidance for Employers, Workplaces and Businesses to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and volunteers safe.
  • Ask staff, volunteers and other partners to not visit the centre, and stay home if they are sick.
  • Actively screen staff and volunteers before each work shift. Questions can be completed on paper, electronically, or by asking staff/volunteers directly.
  • Implement attendance policies for staff and volunteers, including maintaining a list of the names, contact information and attendance records.
  • Train staff and volunteers on all new policies and protocols related to COVID-19 practices, including physical distancing, hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and the City of Toronto mask by-law.

Making 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.
  • Avoid entering the client’s home if possible. Deliver packages for clients at their front door without entering their home to limit contact.
    • Only enter a client’s home if they are unable to carry donation packages into their home.
    • When entering a client’s home, where a mask or face covering.
    • Avoid touching surfaces in the client’s home.
  • 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 (70 – 90% alcohol concentration) immediately after the delivery and when 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, and 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).


Download this information as a PDF.