Special Events Guidance During COVID-19

Large gatherings such as special events can contribute to the spread of COVID-19.

Special event organizers, staff, vendors and patrons can use the information below to consider risks associated with special events where food and/or personal service setting vendors are in attendance. You can minimize the risk of exposure by proactively implementing public health measures.

Read about planning events on City property

Safety plan

  • Prepare and post a Safety Plan in a visible place.
  • The Safety Plan must describe screening, physical distancing, masks or face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, the wearing of personal protective equipment, preventing and controlling crowding and mitigating risks from interactive activities/games.

Face coverings and masks

  • Read Hamilton’s Face Covering By-law to find out where you need to wear a mask/face covering. 
  • The Reopening Ontario Act requires that every person wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period in which they are in an indoor area of a business or premise, with limited exemptions.
  • The Reopening Ontario Act requires that every person wear a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin during any period in which they are in attendance at an indoor public event or gathering permitted (indoor or outdoor) and within two metres of another individual who is not part of their household.

COVID-19 screening

  • All staff (workers, volunteers, suppliers and contractors) must be actively screened daily prior to entering the workplace.
  • Screening may be done in-person, online or verbally.
  • Workplaces must be able to demonstrate that they have implemented a screening system and that it is working as intended.
  • Workplaces can consider various ways of demonstrating that they are compliant with the screening requirements, including keeping a record of individuals who were screened.
  • Prevent staff from working if they do not pass the screening tool and ask them to follow the instructions on the tool. If staff experience symptoms of COVID-19 during their shift, they should return home, self-isolate and visit hamiltoncovidtest.ca to book a test.
  • All patrons are to be screened, either by asking the questions found in Hamilton’s COVID-19 screening tool, or by posting the screening tool at entrances for patrons to self-screen.  Patrons who do not pass screening should be advised that they cannot enter and advised to self-isolate and get tested. Records of screening do not need to be maintained.
  • The venue space must not exceed one patron per eight square metres at any given time to allow for appropriate physical distancing. This calculation is based on useable patron space, which does not include space occupied by vendors, displays, or other fixed objects. In some cases, Event operators may wish to permit fewer individuals in order to help ensure physical distancing is maintained.
  • To ensure safe capacity levels, event operators should establish a system for patrons to line up in order to gain access to the event and consider having only one entrance.  If possible, consider having a separate exit. Patrons must maintain physical distance of (2) metres or six (6) feet between themselves and others in line. If the line is indoors, along with physical distancing, face coverings must be worn. Operators should consider using pylons, staff monitors or other markers to assist patrons with practicing proper physical distancing while in line. 
  • Erect barriers to direct people to limited entrance points. Staff or volunteers should be present at the event entrance points to monitor entry and capacity levels.  
  • Event organizers should maintain a log of staff and vendors that are onsite daily. At a minimum, name, date and time of entry, places accessed within the venue, and contact information should be documented. Having this information will assist Public Health with close-contact tracing and communication should someone fall ill with COVID-19, or come into close contact with a person that has tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Event organizers must post a sign in a conspicuous location visible to the public that states the capacity limits under which the event is permitted to operate.

Promote physical distancing

  • Ensure physical distancing of at least 2 metres between staff and patrons at all times.
  • Modify the layout and use signage to encourage one-way traffic flow and to ensure enough space is provided for staff and customers to maintain physical distancing.
  • Ensure enough space for people in high traffic areas and places where people may gather.
  • Identify areas where crowding and bottlenecks are common, such as lobbies, washrooms, and use staff or barriers to redirect people who may gather in these areas.
  • Post physical distancing signage (PDF, 74 KB) at all entrances, service desks or other high visibility locations.
  • Establish a plan for monitoring and maintaining physical distancing.  This can include assigning staff to monitor lines and to make public announcements reminding patrons to keep at least 2 metres apart. To help promote physical distancing and the safe flow of people, consider using posters or signage, arrows, barriers, or other markings to remind patrons and staff of the need to maintain a safe distance.

Implement enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices

  • Increase frequency of cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces especially high touch surfaces and washrooms.
  • Ensure adequate staffing to maintain prevention strategies for regular cleaning and disinfection.
  • Have an adequate supply of cleaning and disinfecting products for the duration of the event.
  • Staff/volunteers to be properly trained on chemicals used during the event.
  • Limit any sharing of tools, equipment and supplies. Disinfect any shared items between use or customer (e.g. debit machine, tables, trays, touch screens etc.).
  • Create schedules and logs for staff/volunteers to fill out.

Read more about cleaning and disinfecting

Promote good hand and respiratory hygiene

  • Good hand hygiene includes washing hands frequently with warm, soapy water and/or sanitizing hands frequently with hand sanitizer that has at least 60 per cent alcohol content.
  • Handwashing stations (equipped with liquid soap, single use towels, and warm, running water) and/or hand sanitizer (with at least 60 per cent alcohol content) should be located throughout the event space, including the entrance, at each vendor booth, and other common areas.
  • Event staff and vendors should be reminded to properly clean their hands when there is a need to directly handle food items; after processing payments; after coughing, sneezing, or touching the face; after cleaning and sanitizing/disinfecting surfaces; upon returning from a break; or at any other time which may cause hands to become contaminated.
  • Consider posting signage to encourage hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette throughout the event space.

In addition to operating in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, such as the Ontario Food Premises Regulation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, event organizers and vendors should consider implementing additional food handling and point of sale precautions:

  • Vendor booths should be set-up to reduce customer contact with food items. 
  • Prepared food items should be packaged (wrapped or bagged) as much as possible. Items that are not wrapped (such as produce, single-serve bakery items, etc.) must be stored in a manner that protects them from contamination. For example, operators or vendors could consider installing barriers, such as plexiglass.
  • Implementing a drive-thru food pick-up event consistent with the practices and principles of typical food premises drive through / curbside pick-up reduces COVID-19 risks.
  • Where feasible, operators and/or vendors should consider implementing cashless payment systems or encouraging only debit or credit card payment. It is recommended that each vendor have one person to select the items patrons are purchasing and another person to process payments. Proper handwashing/hand sanitizing must be practiced after each payment is processed.
  • Patrons may use re-usable bags for their own use and should only be handled by the patron. 

More information on food safety requirements at Special Events

Each vendor offering personal services are required to comply with all applicable sections of Ontario Regulation 136/18: Personal Service Settings, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O., 1990, the Reopening Ontario Act and best practice documents created by the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.

Call 905-546-2063 to speak with a Public Health Inspector about your special event and review the special event vendor application.

Maintain communications

  • Ensure event staff, volunteers, and vendors are aware of all policies or procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Event organizers should work with vendors to create individual plans as needed, and/or to secure signed agreements to any new policies or procedures due to COVID-19.
  • Event organizers should communicate the policies, procedures, or other practices in place to patrons to minimize the risk of exposure to COVID-19 (e.g., via social media). This lets patrons know what to expect before coming to the space.

Applicable laws and regulations

Notwithstanding the above, event organizers and vendors must continue to comply with all applicable legislation, including:

  • Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act
  • Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act
  • Health Protection and Promotion Act
  • Occupational Health and Safety Act
  • Face Covering and Masks By-law
  • Physical Distancing By-law
  • All other related laws and regulations including local public health restrictions.

See the Province’s Roadmap to Reopen for the current step requirements.

The COVID-19 situation is continuously evolving. As such, Hamilton Public Health Service’s guidance is subject to change as new information is received. Please check back regularly for up-to-date information.


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