Last updated: January 14, 2021 at 6:10 p.m.
A province-wide declaration of emergency and stay-at-home order are in effect.
Read Toronto Public Health’s Guidance for Funeral Homes and Crematoriums (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.
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.
Guidance for Funeral Homes & Crematoriums
The following guidance is to support owners and operators of funeral homes and crematoriums, including funeral directors, to reduce the spread of COVID-19. This document describes the requirements operators must comply with under the Reopening Ontario Act. More information about COVID-19 can be found in the Toronto Public Health (TPH) COVID-19 Fact Sheet.
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.
- Gatherings for the purposes of a funeral, religious service, ceremony or rite are limited to 10 people indoors or 10 people outdoors. Associated social gatherings are limited to five people outdoors.
- 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 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.
- Family members and visitors in attendance should avoid touching, kissing or direct contact with the deceased.
- If contact with the deceased is important for religious or cultural practices, assist mourners to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), including disposable gloves. Keep contact to a minimum. Wash hands immediately after removing PPE. Avoid touching face with gloves or unwashed hands.
- Once family members and visitors have left, thoroughly clean and disinfect the funeral home, paying special attention to high touch surfaces the family or visitors may have come in contact with during their visit.
- For information on body management (e.g. transportation, handling, embalming), please refer to guidance provided by the following authorities/agencies:
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:
- 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 highly visible place for people working at 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:
Guidance for Visiting Cemeteries
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. The BAO has developed a colour coded system of regional pandemic restrictions aligned with the Government of Ontario’s regional framework as part of the Reopening Ontario Act.
- The gathering limit for a funeral, religious service, ceremony or rite is 10 people indoors or outdoors. The operator must ensure the following:
- The service is under the control and direction of a funeral director.
- Attendance is by appointment only.
- Funeral directors have one staff member for every 10 attendees to properly manage the gathering and ensure physical distancing is maintained.
- Guests name and contact information is registered/logged to enable contact tracing.
- Social gatherings associated with a funeral must also be limited to 5 people outdoors.
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.
Measures for All Workplaces, Organizations & Businesses
Review the Guidance for Employers on Preventing COVID-19 in the Workplace to plan and implement protocols to keep staff and patrons safe, including:
- Staff attendance and operations
- Health screening for staff and patrons
- Cleaning and disinfection
- Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
- Managing COVID-19 in the workplace
All businesses and workplaces must prepare and make available a safety plan. This safety plan must:
- Describe measures/procedures that have been or will be implemented in the business, place, facility or establishment to reduce spread of COVID-19.
- Include measures for screening, physical distancing, masks, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects and 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.
- Ensure staff are trained on IPAC measures, policies and procedures.
- Ensure staff are trained 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.
- The use of non-medical masks or face coverings is required in all indoor public spaces, as per the City of Toronto bylaw and Reg 82/20. Operators are required to develop a policy on the wearing of masks. See sample policy. Communicate this new policy to staff and patrons.
- Masks or face coverings are recommended outdoors where one is unable to maintain two metres/six feet physical distance with those they do not live with.
- All people must maintain at least a two metre/six feet physical distance from others they don’t live with.
- Plan and modify the layout of your setting, if possible, to ensure enough space is provided for patrons and staff to maintain physical distancing.
- Collect the date, names and contact phone number or email address of the staff, volunteers, and visitors who attend each service. This will support public health contact tracing efforts in the event that a visitor or staff tests positive for COVID-19.
- 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) and outdoors if physical distancing is difficult.
- 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
- Display posters in high-visibility areas in your setting to promote messages about how to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Download this information as a PDF.