Guidance for Hosting Gatherings and Events

A Framework for Reopening our Province, details the Government of Ontario’s staged approach to reopening the province. The permissibility of and operational requirements for special events are contingent on Provincial Emergency Orders.

As COVID-19 continues to spread locally, transmission remains a risk in community settings, particularly when people congregate. While measures to attempt to reduce these risks may be implemented fully, it is important that organizers, staff and participants be aware of the related risks.

Public events and large social gatherings remain a high risk activity, as many people in close contact in one location for a long time (i.e., 15 minutes or more) can lead to the spread of respiratory illnesses. Appropriate actions should  be taken by organizers, staff and patrons to reduce risk and spread of COVID-19 at gatherings and events. 

For questions and proposals related to event formats permissible under current Provincial Orders, contact [email protected].

For questions related to infection prevention and control or reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission, event planners may contact Public Health Services at [email protected] or 905-974-9848.

Gathering limits for staffed business & facility events or gatherings

Within Ontario, these limits apply to gatherings for staffed business and facility events:

  • A maximum of 50 people per facility indoors and 100 people at outdoor gatherings.
  • Indoor and outdoor limits cannot be combined for the same event.
  • A maximum of 50 people per room at indoor gatherings in event venues and professional meeting facilities, namely convention centres, hotels, motels, resorts, banquet halls and conference centres with multiple rooms. These facilities may host multiple events or gatherings within the same facility.
  • In all cases, individuals must maintain physical distancing by staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart from others outside their household or social circle.
  • Staffed businesses and facilities include bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, recreational sporting or performing art events.

These limits apply to high-risk settings and activities attended by people including:

  • festivals, casinos, bingo halls and gaming establishments, concerts and live shows (e.g.,  performing arts), movie theatres, real estate open houses, event facilities and other meeting spaces, tour and guide services, recreational attractions, courses and instruction (e.g.,  fitness classes, music lessons, tutoring), and facilities for sports/recreational activities (e.g., gyms and fitness studios).

Gathering limits for unmonitored social gatherings or organized public events  

Within Ontario, the following limits apply to unmonitored social gatherings or organized public events:

  • A maximum of 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50) or
  • A maximum of 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100).
  • Indoor and outdoor limits cannot be combined for the same event.
  • In all cases, individuals must maintain physical distancing by staying at least 2 metres (6 feet) apart from others outside their household or social circle.

Unmonitored social gatherings or organized public events include functions, parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs or wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

Reducing the risk of transmissions during events

Develop a plan to screen staff, volunteers, vendors and patrons prior to arrival on site. This includes during event operations as well as during set-up and tear-down activities.

  • Staff, volunteers, vendors and patrons must stay home if they are sick and not be allowed to attend.
  • Develop a contingency plan for staff/volunteer absenteeism.
  • Remind staff to practice physical distancing, wearing non-medical masks or cloth covering while out in the community and frequent hand washing to decrease the likelihood of being infected.
  • Post signage (PDF) reminding people to screen for symptoms, and if they have symptoms,  have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, or have been told to self-isolate, they should not attend the event. They need to go home and contact Telehealth or Public Health Services.

Develop a protocol should someone become ill or symptomatic while on site. Individuals should be isolated immediately from others and asked to go home.

  •  Inform attendees to use the self-assessment tool.
  • Individuals should be asked to go home, but not to take public transit.
  • Operators or event planners should contact Public Health Services at 905-974-9848 option 4 to report an ill staff member or visitor at their event and receive further direction, as appropriate.
  • Consider how the event will manage reimbursement requests for ticketed events.
  • Add signage (PDF) reminding people to self-assess and if they have symptoms,  have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, or told to self-isolate, they should not attend the event.
  • Stagger entry and exit times for staff and visitors to avoid line-ups and to support physical distancing.
  • Use ticketing or a virtual sign up sheet to control visitor numbers and avoid turning people away. 
  • Post signage identifying maximum capacities or limits at entry and in washrooms.
  • For outdoor events, include within your plans what steps will be taken in case of inclement weather.

Develop a physical distancing plan to allow everyone to maintain at least 2 metres (6 feet) distance from each other.

  • Physical distancing includes staff to staff, attendee to staff, and attendee to attendee. Staff include those employed by the festival or event, volunteers and third-party vendors.
  • Physical distancing requirements apply to all components of the event space: approaches, entrances, exits, parking and within the site (including back of house operations).
    • Within the site, consider the physical distancing measures for where crowding occurs – where lines are likely to form, spectator areas, at stages, washrooms, food/beverages, etc.
    • Managing flow within the site is central to managing physical distancing.
    • Where physical distancing cannot be maintained at a common interaction point (e.g., check-in or registration desk, cashier), consider use of a physical barrier (Plexiglass) to protect staff and customers.
  • Consider grouping staff with the same co-workers to limit the overall number of contacts they will have. Provide public access to hand hygiene stations and supplies. Develop a plan to facilitate hand hygiene on site for staff, volunteers, vendors and attendees:
  • For events providing washrooms access, develop a plan to ensure physical distancing as well as cleaning and disinfection.
  • Develop a plan for reducing the number of touch points that occur such as entrance ticket scanning, bag checks, door handles, token exchanges, handling of merchandise, etc.
    • If possible, encourage patrons to pay by debit or credit card (tap if possible) and have staff wipe machines and use hand sanitizer immediately before and after each interaction.
  • Provide hand sanitizer (70-90% alcohol and ideally unscented) for visitors to use upon entrance, and at stations or in staffing areas for staff use. 
  • Develop a thorough cleaning and disinfection plan for commonly touched surfaces.
    • Commonly touched surfaces include washrooms, hand hygiene stations, points of sale terminals, food and beverage areas, waste/recycling receptacle touch points, back of house offices, dressing areas, technical equipment, golf carts.
    • Consider the types of interactions during the event where transactions occur at ticket booths, food,  beverage and merchandise vendors, etc
  • Refer to Public Health Ontario’s Guide for Cleaning and Disinfection For Public Settings.

Gatherings that offer food for sale or distribution and that are open to the public are required to:

  • Comply with the Requirements for Food Vendors at Special Events and with all applicable sections of the Food Premises Regulation, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O., 1990.
  • Notify Public Health Services by completing and submitting an application form plus fee payment at least 14 days in advance of the event date.
  • Allow a Public Health Inspector to inspect the food vendors at the event for safe food preparation and handling. 

Contact the Food Safety Team at 905-546-2489 or [email protected] with questions about food service or safety at your event.

The need for physical distancing creates challenges for existing emergency procedures. Review the plans in place for various scenarios including, but not limited to, medical emergencies, places of refuge and evacuation scenarios.

  • Event organizers may need to re-evaluate the size and capacity of their designated shelters in the case of an emergency, such as an extreme or inclement weather event or egress capacity that may prevent physical distancing. Organizers may consider proactively postponing or cancelling where they cannot effectively activate emergency plans without exposing workers and patrons to greater risk of transmission.
  • Emergency egress plans should continue to reflect that moving patrons away from the most urgent hazard is the first order of business.

Develop a plan to communicate requirements for staff and participants of the gathering or event.

  • Provide details through email prior to the scheduled date.
  • Share documents such as screening tools or other procedures to help visitors follow rules in place.
  • Provide in-person instructions or reminders prior to or upon entry.
  • Post signage at the event as a visual reminder.

Face Coverings By-Law

The City of Hamilton requires the use of face coverings or masks in all enclosed public spaces under By-law 20-155 (PDF). Read a summary of the bylaw, along with expectations from establishment operators and the public.

The bylaw requires:

  • Staff to be aware of the requirements of the bylaw and its application on premise.  
  • Signage (PDF) to be posted at all entrances of establishments that contains wording outlining the bylaw.
  • Establishments to take appropriate steps to reinforce the bylaw with staff and public.
  • Staff to wear face coverings while indoors in a public-serving or receiving area.
  • Customers to wear face coverings while indoors, except while eating or drinking.
  • Noting that not all staff or customers can wear a mask and may be exempted.

Additional resources