Last updated: April 16, 2021 at 7:35 p.m.
On April 16, the Government of Ontario announced that effective Monday, April 19 at 12:01 a.m., the capacity of weddings, funerals, and religious services, rites or ceremonies will be limited to 10 people indoors or outdoors. Social gatherings associated with these services such as receptions are prohibited, except for with members of the same household or one other person from outside that household who lives alone. Drive-in services will be permitted. This page will soon be updated with more information.
Read Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Places of Worship (also available below). Read also Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Planning a Funeral Reception or Celebration of Life and Planning a Wedding.
On January 4, 2021, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health issued a Letter of Instruction to all employers in the City of Toronto permitted to be open under the Reopening Ontario Act. Employers permitted to be open are required to take the additional measures set out in this Letter to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
COVID-19 Guidance for Places of Worship
Religious services, rites, ceremonies and related celebrations must comply with the Reopening Ontario Act. During this time, it is recommended that faith leaders limit in-person services to keep everyone safe.
The aim and purpose of this document is to assist individuals and businesses with information related to the Ontario Government’s reopening framework as well as Toronto Public Health requirements to reduce the spread of COVID-19. It is important to know that breaches of some of these directions will constitute offences under provincial regulations or other public health legal requirements. While we aim to provide relevant and timely information, no guarantee can be given as to the accuracy or completeness of any information provided. This guidance is not intended to nor does it provide legal advice and should not be relied upon or treated as legal advice. Users seeking legal advice should consult with a qualified legal professional.
- Host virtual services to allow everyone to participate.
- Limit gathering for physical distancing & better ventilation.
- Monitor proximity for physical distancing & wear a mask.
- Limit duration when people are together indoors.
1. Conduct Virtual Services
- Toronto Public Health strongly encourages virtual services at this time to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and to ensure that everyone can participate safely.
- Many of the COVID-19 cases are from in-person transmission. Call or connect virtually with vulnerable individuals or people who live alone.
2. Limit Gatherings
- There have been multiple COVID-19 outbreaks linked to weddings and funeral receptions.
- If gatherings are necessary, keep services short, and plan for very small groups of people.
- Discourage social gatherings before or after the service, including staff.
- Consider postponing receptions to a later date, or limit to household members only.
- Religious services, rites and ceremonies, as well as social events before or after, must adhere to the gathering limits listed below.
- The mandatory capacity limits below include parishioners, officiants and staff. In addition, all individuals must be able to maintain at least two metres/six feet physical distancing from people they do not live with at all times.
Capacity Limits for Religious Gatherings
Gatherings for weddings, funeral, or religious services, rites, or ceremonies
Social gatherings associated with any wedding, funeral, or religious service, rite, or ceremony
|15% capacity of the room or less, including officiant/staff
(*Exception for members of a single household or one person from outside the household of a person that lives alone.)
|The number of individuals that can maintain at least two metres physical distancing
||5 people or less
- Update staff and attendees on the new restrictive measures.
- Encourage everyone to download the COVID Alert app.
- Print and display relevant posters by entrances, hallways, washrooms and meeting rooms.
4. Safety Plan
- Operators are required to prepare and make available a safety plan. This safety plan must:
- Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the organization to reduce spread of COVID-19.
- Include measures for screening, physical distancing, masks, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, and the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Be in writing and made available to any person for review on request.
- Be posted in a visible place to come to the attention of those working or attending the location.
- Use the COVID-19 Safety Plan Checklist to develop your safety plan.
5. Health screening
6. Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Provide hand sanitizer stations by entrances, and in high traffic areas.
- Encourage handwashing with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching face with unwashed hands.
- Cover cough or sneeze into your sleeve or with a tissue.
- Do not use gloves as a substitute for hand hygiene.
- Top up supplies of liquid hand soap, paper towel, hand sanitizer, and tissues.
7. Wear a mask
- Everyone must wear a mask indoors, with some exceptions.
- Learn more about mask bylaw are under Orders & Bylaws.
- Train staff on the mask bylaw and your organization’s policy, including who is exempt and how to safely wear a cloth mask or face covering. Masks are not required for children under the age of two and people with trouble breathing.
- Some people who cannot wear a mask, are exempted from the bylaw. Proof of exemption is not required. Consider providing alternatives for people who are unable to wear a mask (e.g. virtual services, specific timed services).
- A mask should be worn outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
8. Physical distancing measures
- Limit attendance and modify rooms / hallways to allow for physical distancing.
- Use floor markings and signs for one directional movement to reduce crowding.
- Anticipate areas where people will naturally gather (e.g. outside, hallway, foyer). Assign staff or volunteers to remind everyone about physical distancing.
- Remove or tape off seats and alternative rows for two metre distancing between attendees.
- Consider seating by households and encourage everyone to remain seated for the service.
- Have ushers to manage seating, and exit the room row by row.
9. Modify or suspend activities to reduce virus spread
- Consider live streaming services services.
- Consider telephone counselling services, when possible.
- Keep in-person services short, especially indoors.
- Avoid use of items that requires contact by multiple people, such as chalice, holy water stoup, washing facilities, prayer books, cushions, shawls, prayer rugs, etc.
- Consider alternative collection options such as a secure drop box or touch-less offerings.
- Provide single-use handouts or ask congregants to bring their own items.
- If sharing work equipment such as phones and computers, clean and disinfect between users.
- Leave distribution materials/objects on a table for people to pick up.
- For rites requiring close contact (e.g. baptism, circumcision), wear a medical mask, eyewear or face shields. Do not share personal protective equipment.
- Use a microphone instead of speaking loudly. Do not share. Clean and disinfect microphones according to manufacturer’s instructions after each use.
10. Vocalists, musicians and performers
Indoor group singing, dancing and use of wind instruments has been linked to numerous outbreaks in multiple countries. Consider avoiding risks, with alternative options.
- Limit the number of performers or vocalists. Avoid group or congregational singing.
- Use pre-recorded music (audio/ video), or use alternative musical instruments.
- Install barriers, such as plexiglass between performers and attendees. Clean and disinfect barriers after each use.
- There is limited evidence to determine an exact safe distance between singers and others, but greater distance should be taken to reduce the risk.
- All performers should stand at least two metres apart from other performers, conductor and attendees, at all times. Length of instruments should be accounted for when determining physical distancing between performers.
11. Attendance Record for Contact Tracing
- Keep an attendance record of all staff, volunteers and visitors. Include name, date, time/ event, email address or phone number.
- Information may be gathered beforehand if there is online registration. If collecting information at the entrance, maintain physical distance and do not pass pen and paper around.
- Personal information collected can only be used for contract tracing and should be kept in locked drawer or office for 30 days, and then shredded.
12. Plans in the Event of Illness
- Develop a plan in the event someone becomes sick while in your place of worship.
- Have a room where the person can be isolated until they can go home safely or receive medical attention.
- Have personal protective equipment (e.g. medical mask, gloves, gown, face shield) available.
- Operators must immediately notify Toronto Public Health via the Workplace Reporting Tool as soon as they become aware of two or more people who test positive for COVID-19 within a 14-day interval in connection with the place of worship.
13. Enhanced Cleaning and Disinfection
- Refer to cleaning and disinfecting fact sheet for instructions.
- Assign staff or volunteers to clean and disinfect at least twice daily.
- Keep a cleaning log to track activities.
- Wash garments and linens after use, at the hottest temperature setting possible.
- Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter instead of sweeping floors.
- Line the waste bins with plastic bags and empty waste bins often.
- Change gloves when changing tasks, or more often as necessary.
- Wash hands with soap and water after taking off gloves.
- Always read the labels. Avoid mixing cleaning agents. Use in a well ventilated area.
14. Heating, Ventilation And Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems
- Maximize outdoor air ratio of the HVAC settings, or open windows and doors, where possible.
- Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
- Use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
- Do not obstruct HVAC inlets and outlets.
- Keep seating and activities away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).
- Use an upward airflow rotation, when using ceiling fans.
- Position fan upward to avoid blowing at people and surfaces, if using portable fans.
- If using portable air purifiers, follow the manufacturer’s directions to decide where best to place the device. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on maintenance.
- Refer to the COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation factsheet for more information.
15. Childcare or Children’s Programs
Childcare for infants is discouraged. Childcare or children’s programming must comply with Early Years Guidelines.
16. Additional Resources
Provincial orders under the Reopening Ontario Act and guidance for religious services, rites or ceremonies may change. Please visit toronto.ca/COVID19 regularly for updates or call us at 416-338-7600.