COVID-19 Guidance for Community Cooling Centres

Hot temperatures can be dangerous, especially for some people who are at higher risk of heat-related illnesses. Heat illnesses can affect you quickly and are mainly caused by over-exposure to heat or over-exertion in the heat. Cooling centres can provide relief and protection for vulnerable groups who may be at an increased risk for heat-related illnesses.

It is important to keep employees and visitors safe when operating cooling centres in this time of COVID-19. Proper screening, cleaning, physical distancing, and other measures are essential to reduce the spread of infection.

Screening of employees and visitors

  • Screen all employees and visitors using an appropriate screening tool.
    • Employees who did not pass their screening are not permitted to enter.
    • Visitors who did not pass their screening may enter.
      • They should be provided with and wear a surgical/procedure mask.
      • They should be directed to an alternate room/space within the cooling centre. More information about the alternate room/space is provided below.
      • If they have not been tested, individuals with symptoms should be encouraged to seek testing at a COVID-19 assessment centre.

Provide an alternate room/space for persons with symptoms or with other high-risk exposures

  • Designate an alternate room/space which is separated from the main cooling room to accommodate visitors who did not pass their screening.
  • If an alternate room/space is not available for persons with symptoms or with other high-risk exposures, consider partitioning a private space within the cooling room using dividers or curtains.
  • Where possible, the alternate room/space should have:
    • A separate entrance and exit
    • A separate washroom
    • Partitions separating individuals, in addition to other physical distancing measures
  • Employees should wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) (e.g. gloves, eye protection, medical mask) and minimize time spent in these areas.
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection should be conducted after each use of the alternate room/space. More information on cleaning is provided below.

Ensure public health measures

  • Post signage at the cooling room entrance, which clearly explains the rules and conditions for entry. Signage could include:
  • Provide portable handwashing stations for visitors (sink with water, soap and paper towel or alcohol-based hand sanitizer) at the entrance and within the premises.
  • The use of masks or face coverings is required in public areas of the enclosed space.
  • Avoid the use of communal water fountains and bottle filling stations. Encourage visitors to bring their own water bottle to stay hydrated.
  • Ensure physical distancing:
    • Limit the number of people permitted in the cooling room at any one time:
      • To calculate the maximum number of people at any one time, a good rule of thumb is one person per two metres square (four squared metres) of floor space.
      • Consider implementing time limits for visitors (e.g. during peak use periods) based on individual needs.
      • Consider creating a schedule with pre-assigned times of use.
    • Post signage at the entrance indicating the maximum number of people that can be permitted at any one time.
    • Once the maximum number of people is reached, one person may enter for every person that leaves.
    • Reduce the lines and grouping of visitors waiting in line outside of the cooling centre by having visitors line up behind 2-metre (6 feet) tape markings on the floor.
    • Design a walking flow for the cooling centre (e.g. creating one-way routes with prominent signage and/or floor markings).
    • Arrange chairs/seating a minimum of 2 metres (6 feet) apart and/or place signs in fixed seating spaces.
      • Mark seating locations with tape on the floor so that seating can be repositioned easily.
      • Consider creating separate spaces for family units (i.e. families who live together do not need to maintain physical distancing between each other) and for people with pets.
  • Have employees periodically monitor the cooling room to ensure requirements are being followed.

Enhance environmental cleaning and disinfection protocols

  • Follow guidance on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings.
  • Provide seating and furniture which are easy to clean and disinfect.
    • Provide disinfecting wipes for visitors to wipe down seating areas prior to use.
  • Where provided, increase the frequency of cleaning and disinfecting washrooms.

Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system

  • Ensure the HVAC system for the cooling centre is adequately maintained.
  • Where provided, use the highest efficiency filters that are compatible with the HVAC system.
  • Cooling centres with ceiling fans should have an upward airflow rotation.
  • Keep areas near HVAC inlets and outlets clear.
    • Seating should be arranged away from areas with high airflow (i.e. not in front of air vents).

Other information


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 and Cooling Centers. Retrieved from:

Adapted with permission from Toronto Public Health.

Eastern Ontatio Health Unit / Bureau de santé de l'Ontario