Last updated: November 26, 2020 at 5:05 p.m.

Read Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Funeral Homes (also available below), Guidance for Visiting Cemeteries (also available below) and Guidance for Planning a Funeral Reception or Celebration of Life. Also read the tips for the public attending faith-based services and events and funerals.

See also the Ontario Ministry of Health’s guidance for funeral and bereavement services.

The following interim guidance is to support owners and operators of funeral homes and crematoriums, including funeral directors, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. More information about COVID-19 can be found in the Toronto Public Health (TPH) COVID-19 Fact Sheet.

Toronto is currently in the grey lockdown zone of the provincial government’s COVID-19 Response Framework. This guidance document describes the requirements operators must comply with under the Reopening Ontario Act.

Responsibility of owners and operators

All owners and operators are responsible for ensuring that their funeral home or crematorium and services offered are in compliance with these public health guidelines, and all emergency orders made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. In addition, owners/operators should review their infection prevention and control policies and procedures to ensure they are consistent with professional best practices, including guidance provided by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario and the Funeral Service Association of Canada.

Protective measures to keep everyone safe

  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Keep a two metre/six feet distance from those you don’t live with, 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, as per the provincial requirements and City bylaw, and when you cannot maintain a two metre/six foot distance outdoors.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Follow capacity limits

Ontario Regulation 82/20 requires that facilities limit the number of persons in the facility such that every member of the public is able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres (six feet) from every other person.

  • The capacity limit for your facility should be based on provincial and local public health requirements, facility layout, and available space for services.
  • As of November 23, 2020 gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors for the purposes of a funeral, religious service, ceremony or rite.
  • Use phone, email, video chats and e-signature applications to limit in-person visits.
  • Offer remote services such as video conferencing to assist families with planning and arrangements, such as online selection of products, services or rooms.
  • Consider implementing appointments or time limits for the use of the facility so that facility capacity is more easily controlled.
  • Stagger viewing times and set limits on the number of people allowed into the room at any given time to allow for physical distancing.
  • Post signage at the entrance stating of the maximum number persons permitted at any one time.
  • Assign staff to monitor the number of visitors entering and exiting to ensure adherence to the capacity limit. Once the maximum number of persons permitted has been reached, ask visitors to wait outside or in their car until they are called.
  • Remove unnecessary furniture (e.g. chairs, benches) to accommodate the reduced facility capacity.
  • Recommend for families to delay larger memorial service, or celebrations of life events until there are less restrictive group gathering measures in place or consider hosting it outdoors.
  • Consider drive-in services; live streaming/webcasting or other virtual technologies for funeral or memorial service to include guests who are at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

Conduct health screening of staff, families and visitors

  • Communicate the COVID-19 health assessment screening criteria by posting information on your website, through email, or by telephone to encourage staff, visitors and families to self-screen before attending the facility in-person.
  • It is strongly recommended that owners and operators conduct active in-person health screening for all staff, family members and visitors prior to entering the facility.
    • Designate an area outside, near the main entrance of the facility as a screening station for in-person screening.
      • The area should be clearly identifiable as the screening station.
      • Post signs in visible locations clearly explaining the screening process and conditions for entry.
      • The area must allow for a minimum of two metres (six feet) distance between staff conducting in-person screening and the individual being screened.
      • Alternatively, a protective barrier (e.g. plexiglass) may be equipped around the screening station.
      • If physical distancing or a barrier is not possible, staff conducting the screening should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g. surgical mask, face shield).
      • Use visual markers/cues spaced two metres (six feet) apart (e.g. tape on the floor, pylons, signs) to assist staff, visitors and families maintain a two metre distance from each other if waiting to be screened.
    • Individuals can be asked the health screening questions or can complete a screening form prior to entry.
    • Anyone with symptoms of COVID-19, has been in contact with a person with COVID-19, or has traveled outside of Canada in the last 14 days, should not enter the facility.
    • Encourage individuals with symptoms to call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, a health care provider, or an assessment centre to get tested.
  • Provide hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol concentration) by the entrance or at the screening station. Young children should be supervised when using hand sanitizer.

Support and encourage proper use of masks

  • The use of masks or face coverings is mandatory in all indoor public settings, as per Ontario Regulation 82/20 and City of Toronto By-law 541-2020.
  • Masks or face coverings are strongly recommended outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Facility owners and operators must develop a policy and protocols on the wearing of masks, as per City of Toronto By-Law 541-2020, and train staff on the policy.
  • Ontario Regulation 82/20 and City of Toronto By-law 541-2020 allow for certain exemptions, including children under two, people with health issues, people who are unable to put on a mask without assistance, and temporary removal of a mask or face covering while engaging in certain activities.
  • More information is available here.

Practice physical distancing

  • Physical distancing means keeping a distance of two metres/six feet from others. Plan and modify the layout to ensure enough space is provided for staff, families and visitors to maintain physical distancing.
  • Post physical distancing signs at all entrances, reception counters, visitation rooms.
  • Design a walking flow (e.g. creating one-directional paths with prominent signage and/or floor markings), where appropriate.
  • Use floor markers for the receiving line to guide visitors to stand two metres/six feet apart.
  • Use visual markers, stickers or pylons to encourage physical distancing,
  • Tape off or space seats to maintain a two metres/six feet distance for people not in the same household.
  • Remind staff, families and visitors to maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet) as best as possible. Members of the same household do not need to maintain physical distancing between each other.
  • Ask guests to refrain from hugging, kissing and shaking hands during the service or reception. Suggest use of eye contact, with a smile or a nod as an expression of sympathy.
  • Install plexiglass/barriers, if possible, where there will be close contact between staff and clients (e.g. reception counters)
  • Group or congregational singing is strongly discouraged, even with masks. More information for vocalists and musicians is available in TPH Guidance for Planning a Funeral Reception or Celebration of Life.

Support hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

  • Post signs on proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Avoid touching face, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Provide hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol-based) near entrances and other high touch locations for visitors and staff use. Monitor and refill, as needed.
  • Provide additional supplies such as individual tissue packs and no-touch waste receptacles in appropriate areas/locations.
  • Ensure single-use items, including masks and gloves, are discarded immediately after use to reduce the risk of contamination.
  • Waste receptacles should be lined with a plastic bag, and emptied as often as necessary.
  • Do not share items such as water pitchers, prayer books or programs.

Keep attendance records for contact tracing

  • It is strongly recommended that facilities maintain voluntary attendance records of all staff, visitors and families.
  • Toronto Public Health will use this list to help with contact tracing efforts in the event that a person tests positive or an outbreak is identified.
  • Your facility should:
    • Obtain a person’s consent to collect their personal information.
    • Inform them the information requested is voluntary.
    • Inform them of the purpose and legal authority for collecting this information.
    • Only collect personal information for COVID-19 contract tracing purposes, unless an individual provides their consent.
    • Protect the personal information you collect (e.g. locked drawer/office).
    • Keep records for 30 days, and then destroy the information (i.e. shred/delete).
  • Call us at 416-338-7600 if you have been notified that a staff or visitor has tested positive for COVID-19, and/or you have concerns that others may have been exposed while at the facility.
  • For more information, review the Guidance for Managing COVID-19 in the Workplace.

Special considerations for deaths due to COVID-19

  • Public viewings are permitted, even if the person has passed away due to COVID-19.
  • In the case of a death related to COVID-19, it is possible that close contacts (e.g. household members) of the deceased will be in self-isolation.
    • Persons required to self-isolate cannot attend the funeral home for any reason, including the visitation, funeral and burial during their self-isolation period.
    • Clients under self-isolation may make funeral arrangements by other means, such as by telephone, video conferencing or appointing another person to make the arrangements on their behalf.
    • Meaningful commemorative events, memorial services, and life celebrations for the deceased person can be carried out after the pandemic has passed. Toronto Public Health can assist in ensuring that those in self-isolation are aware they cannot attend the funeral home, interment, or have visitors to their home.

Follow food and drink service restrictions

Indoor and outdoor dining at food establishments, including restaurants and event spaces, is not permitted. Operators should follow Guidance for Indoor and Outdoor Events

Workplace safety plan

  • Operators are required to prepare and make available a workplace safety plan. This safety plan must:
    • Be available on or before November 30, 2020.
    • 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.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

  • 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.
  • Do not open windows and doors if doing so poses a safety risk.
  • Ensure the HVAC system(s) are properly maintained.
  • Where provided, use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
    • Seating and activities should be arranged away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).
  • Rooms where indoor 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.
  • For more information, review TPH’s COVID-19: Transmission, Aerosols and Ventilation fact sheet.

Increase public health awareness

  • Inform staff, family members and visitors about the precautions you are taking to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Information can be communicated on the funeral homes or crematorium’s website, social media account, or through automated telephone or e-mail messages.
  • Designate a contact person (e.g. supervisor) to respond to COVID-19 concerns from staff, family members and visitors.
  • Encourage staff, family members and visitors to download the COVID Alert app. They will be notified directly if they have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.
  • Download and display posters in high visibility areas in your setting to promote messages about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Additional resources

The Bereavement Authority of Ontario (BAO) is a government delegated authority that works on behalf of the provincial Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. The BAO is responsible for licensed funeral establishment operators, directors and pre-planners, and cemetery, crematorium and alternative disposition operators. As of September 21, 2020, the BAO Registrar’s Directive states that the indoor gathering limit for cemeteries is 25 people, not counting staff. This limit applies to gatherings, attendances, funerals, visitations, funeral receptions, and graveside services.

For outdoor funeral services (visitations, receptions and graveside services) the gathering limit is up to a maximum of 100 attendees at a cemetery or funeral home’s property providing:

  • The service is under the control and direction of a funeral director.
  • The service (at the cemetery) has the consent of the cemetery operator for numbers over 25.
  • Funeral directors have one staff member for every 10 attendees to properly manage the gathering and ensure physical distancing is maintained.
  • Guests are registered/logged to enable contact tracing.

The Reopening Ontario Act, which states that the gathering limit for funerals must not exceed 30 per cent, applies strictly for gatherings in a building or structure that is not a private dwelling and makes provisions to ensure that everyone in attendance complies with public health requirements for physical distancing.

The decision to close or limit access to a cemetery is within the rights of the cemetery director and/or manager, and are aligned with the directives issued by the BAO. Cemetery directors should review their infection prevention and control (IPAC) policies to ensure they are consistent with professional practices, including guidance provided by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.

Stay Informed

Staff Health Screening Policy

Staff must be self-screened before each shift. Staff must inform their supervisor, and stay home if they are sick or unwell. Anyone who becomes ill while on the premises must go home right away and self-isolate. They should contact Telehealth Ontario, their health care provider or a COVID-19 assessment centre for guidance about testing.

Staff Training

  • Ensure staff are trained on IPAC measures, policies and procedures.
  • Ensure staff have received additional training on COVID-19 precautions, including occupational health and safety guidelines.
  • Train staff on the City mask bylaw (see below) and your organization’s mask policy, including who is exempt. Proof of exemption is not require.
  • Instruct staff and volunteers on proper hand hygiene techniques and respiratory etiquette, when to use masks, the proper use of mask, and how to clean or discard single use masks appropriately.
  • Schedule frequent cleaning of public spaces, including high-touch surfaces. More information cleaning and disinfecting can be found here.

Mask Bylaw

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. See sample policy on page 3. Communicate this new policy to staff and customers. Masks or face coverings can be worn outside where one is unable to maintain the appropriate physical distance with those they do not live with.

Visitations

  • All visitors must self-screen for symptoms of COVID-19 and may not enter the cemetery if they have symptoms. Post the health screening questionnaire on your website so visitors, staff and customers can self-screen before arrival.
  • Limit indoor services to 25 people, not counting staff.
  • The use of masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, including enclosed mausoleums.
  • Provide alcohol-based (70-90% alcohol concentration) hand sanitizer stations by entrances and high-traffic areas.
  • During a burial service at the cemetery, the operators must ensure everyone maintains a distance of two metres/six feet between those who are not from the same household.

Attendance Record

  • Collect the date, names and contact phone number or email address of the staff, volunteers, and visitors who attended the service. This will support public health contact tracing efforts in the event that a visitor or staff tests positive or an outbreak is identified.
  • Providing personal information is voluntary for attendees. Your organization must obtain a person’s consent and inform them of the purpose and legal authority for collecting this information.
  • Operators must take reasonable action to secure the personal information collected (e.g. locked drawer or secure electronic system).
  • Any personal information that is collected for COVID-19 contract tracing can only be used for this purpose, unless an individual provides their consent. Records should be kept for 30 days, and then shredded.

Public Health Measures for Visitors

  • Wash hands often, including before and after visiting the gravesite, or use hand-sanitizer with an alcohol concentration of at least 70%.
  • Maintain a six feet/two metres distance from people you don’t live with at all times, including visits to the gravesite.
  • Wear a mask at all times when entering indoor spaces (e.g. mausoleum).
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or into a tissue. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage and wash your hands.
  • Avoid touching face with unwashed hands.
  • Download the COVID Alert app so you can be notified directly if you have been in close contact with someone who was contagious with COVID-19.

Print and Post Signs

 

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