COVID-19 Information: Places of Worship

Last updated: March 21, 2022

As key public health indicators continue to improve or remain stable, the majority of public health and workplace safety measures will be lifted as of March 21, 2022.

Ontario is now focusing on living with, and managing, COVID-19. This means that organizations, businesses and individuals must make their own decisions on how to protect themselves, their members, staff, customers and visitors from COVID-19. Please see the provincial outline: Living with and managing COVID-19 for further details.

COVID-19 continues to circulate in our community and is still a serious disease. COVID can lead to hospitalization, long COVID or death. It is important to be aware of those in our communities who are most at risk of these severe outcomes including:

  • People of advanced age
  • People living in congregate settings
  • People with underlying health conditions
  • People who are unvaccinated

Faith community leaders/organizers can help to lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure among people who participate in religious services, events or gatherings. Although provincial and local requirements are no longer in place, HPPH encourages faith leaders to continue following best practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We have updated, and encourage you to use, HPPH's COVID-19 Recommendations for Places of Worship [PDF] document. 

HPPH Letter of Instruction

The Letter of Instruction to owners/operators of organizations that provide religious services, rites or ceremonies and/or operate places of worship in Huron and Perth Counties was rescinded on February 17, 2022 since additional HPPH instruction over and above provincial direction is no longer needed.

Recommendations for Places of Worship

Masks/face coverings
  • As of March 21, 2022, the requirement to wear a mask was lifted for many indoor settings, including places of worship. Some settings continue to require the use of face coverings, and HPPH encourages everyone to consider their personal risk of contracting COVID-19 and to decide whether to wear a mask or face covering.
  • Consider having a supply of masks available for anyone who may want to wear one or forgets to bring one with them.
  • Please see our Mask and Face Covering page for more details.
Screening 
  • As of March 21, 2022, screening (passive and active) is no longer required in most settings, including places of worship.
  • HPPH recommends your organization maintain a way to let people know that they should not enter the building if they have any symptoms of illness or are required to isolate.
  • Please note that passive and active screening remain extremely effective in decreasing the spread of the virus. Although not required by provincial legislation, you may choose to continue to use the different forms of screening to help lower the risk of COVID-19 exposure at your place of worship.
  • Difference between passive and active screening:
    • Passive screening is when an individual assesses their own risk factors and decides for themselves what to do (e.g. whether they may enter a business/facility or physically attend work). A typical passive screening would involve putting up a sign near the entrance of the building.
    • Active screening is when someone else confirms that an individual has completed the screening and that the result indicates whether they may enter the business/facility or the workplace.
Capacity limits and physical distancing 

As of March 1, 2022, the Ontario government has lifted capacity limits in all indoor public settings, as well as the requirement to maintain two metres of physical distance.

Safety plan 

Although a safety plan is no longer required under provincial legislation, HPPH recommends that places of worship continue following best practices to reduce the risk of COVID-19. The COVID-19 Recommendations for Places of Worship [PDF] document can be used to determine the measures and procedures you may wish to implement in your place of worship.

Cleaning and disinfection 

To decrease the spread of COVID-19, HPPH recommends you:

  • Maintain a cleaning and disinfecting routine for your building and any equipment or items being used. 
  • Clean and disinfect all surfaces that get touched often (e.g. toilets, sinks, door handles, railings) twice a day or more, and also when you can see they are dirty.

  • Use only disinfectants that have a Drug Identification Number (DIN) approved by Health Canada.

  • If using a bleach solution, prepare fresh solution daily.

  • Check the expiry dates of products and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette

Encourage all individuals to follow proper hand hygiene rules and respiratory etiquette (cough and sneeze manners). This is good practice at all times - not just during a pandemic - to prevent the spread of illness. 

  • Ask people to wash their hands often, especially after handling shared items. 
  • Ask people to sneeze or cough into their elbow/sleeve or a tissue/handkerchief and to perform hand hygiene after using a tissue.
  • Have alcohol-based hand sanitizer (60-90% alcohol) available at all doorway entrances and exits.
  • Have running water, liquid soap, paper towels, and garbage cans in all washrooms.
Proof of vaccination 

As of March 1, 2022, the Ontario government has lifted proof of vaccination requirements. However, businesses/organizations may choose to implement their own policy requiring proof of vaccination to enter the premises. You must follow any applicable laws (e.g., Ontario's Human Rights Code, Occupational Health and Safety Standards) and should obtain independent legal advice before implementing such a policy.

Frequently asked questions

Can food and refreshments be served at gatherings, or meetings/events held in places of worship?

Food and refreshments are permitted to be served at gatherings and/or events. Be sure to practice safe food handling and encourage attendees to wash their hands before and after eating. 

Can we resume child care/children’s programming? 
Any unlicensed child care and children’s programming must operate in a manner consistent with the Ministry of Health’s COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for Camps. See HPPH’s COVID-19 Information: Child Care page for additional information. 
Can shared/reusable items (e.g. hymnals, bibles, bulletins) be used during services? Can collection be taken as usual? 

Yes. While the risk of COVID-19 transmission through touching surfaces is low, it may occur. Encourage handwashing before and after sharing items.  

How frequently should equipment and surfaces be cleaned? 

In addition to routine cleaning and disinfection, surfaces that are frequently touched with hands (e.g. door handles, light switches, restrooms, etc.) should be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as necessary to maintain a sanitary condition, as well as when visibly dirty. It is recommended that such surfaces are cleaned and disinfected following every service.

Any equipment used by staff/visitors should be cleaned and disinfected between use and as frequently as necessary (e.g. microphones, phones, etc.). Only use disinfectants with a Drug Identification Number (DIN) that are approved by Health Canada, and only use cleaning products that are intended for the object. More guidance on cleaning and disinfection is provided by Health Canada and Public Health Ontario.

Is singing permitted? Should we continue to wear masks when singing?

As of March 21, 2022, masks are no longer required in indoor spaces. However, individuals who are performing or leading music/singing or attending the performance may choose to wear a mask.

HPPH recommends that for individuals speaking, singing, performing or leading music:

  • Encourage the individuals to wear a mask, OR
  • If they remove their mask, encourage individuals to stand at least 2 metres from others, not face each other, and/or use an impermeable barrier (e.g., plexiglass).

Additional resources