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 employees and visitors prior to entry by asking the following questions:
    • Do you have any COVID-19 symptoms, including the symptoms listed on the EOHU's website? (Note: this site should be consulted on a weekly basis for any updates)
    • Have you travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days?
    • Has someone you are in close contact with tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 14 days?
    • Are you in close contact with a person who
      • recently traveled outside of Canada AND is sick with COVID-19 symptoms, OR
      • is sick with new respiratory symptoms, OR
      • has symptoms and is awaiting COVID-19 test results?
  • Visitors and employees who have answered NO to all questions can enter the cooling centre after performing hand hygiene.
  • Employees who have answered YES to any of the questions should put on a mask or face covering, go home immediately and self-isolate.
  • Visitors who have answered YES to any of the questions should use a designated alternate room/space to separate them from others.
    • These visitors must wear a mask or face covering and perform hand hygiene prior to entering the alternate space/room.
  • Encourage employees and visitors with symptoms to visit the EOHU website to learn about assessment centres, and to help determine if further healthcare is required.

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

  • Designate an alternate room/space which is separate from the main cooling room to accommodate visitors who answered YES to any of the screening questions.
  • 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, 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 70% alcohol hand sanitizer) at the entrance and within the premises.
  • The use of masks or face coverings (non-medical masks such as cloth masks) 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

  • Use appropriate cleaner and disinfectant as per manufacturer’s instructions (consult the list of acceptable disinfectants).  
  • High traffic areas and frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g. doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, toilet handles, countertops, handrails) should be cleaned and disinfected by designated employees at least twice per day, and when visibly dirty.
  • 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


References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). COVID-19 and Cooling Centers. Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/cooling-center.html

Adapted with permission from Toronto Public Health.

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