Updated Direction for Youth Justice Open and Secure Facilities

Effective immediately all open and secure custody / detention youth justice facilities must follow the direction outlined here to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Find out about the latest public health measures, advice and restrictions in your area, and when regions are returning to the COVID19 response framework.

As the COVID-19 outbreak situation changes, further direction may be provided.

Essential visits in youth justice open and secure facilities


Indoor visits are permitted for essential visitors ONLY.

An essential visitor is generally a person who:

  1. Performs essential services to support the ongoing operation of a service agency (including a contractor); and/or
  2. Is considered necessary to maintain the health, wellness and safety, or any applicable legal rights, of a youth residing in a youth justice open or secure facility.

An essential visitor may include but is not limited to the following:

Virtual visits are to be strongly encouraged and facilitated wherever possible.

Agencies should consider residents and staff health and susceptibility to the virus as well as the overall well-being of all the residents in youth justice facility settings in determining whether essential visits are appropriate.

Essential visitor personal protective equipment requirements while indoors:

All essential visitors must wear, a surgical/procedure mask AND eye protection (i.e. face shield) at all times while inside the congregate living setting.

Essential visitors are to be advised during screening at the door that strict adherence to the masking/eye protection requirements are a condition of entry and failure to adhere may result in them being asked to leave the premises.

Service providers are to supply essential visitors with a surgical/procedure mask and face shield as needed.

Surgical/procedure masks and face shields are considered core Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and can be obtained through the Critical Supplies and Equipment (CSE) survey portal. (See section below for additional detail).


Outdoor visits are permitted for essential visitors ONLY.

Essential visitor personal protective equipment requirements while outdoors:

All essential visitors must wear, at a minimum, a surgical/procedure mask at all times while the outdoor visit is taking place. The requirement of a surgical/procedure mask is new and enhanced from previous direction to use a face mask/covering.

Service providers are to supply outdoor essential visitors with a surgical/procedure mask as needed.

Non-Essential Reintegration Leaves:

All non-essential reintegration leaves continue to be restricted until further notice.

Service providers are to follow local school board direction regarding school attendance.

Enhanced personal protective equipment for staff

Eye protection needs to be:

  1. intended for protection of mucous membranes involving the eyes; and
  2. a barrier to provide that protection.

Eye protection should have some means of shielding the sides of the eyes/face by the way they wrap around so that droplets are less likely to land on the eyes. Prescription glasses and sunglasses alone are not considered adequate eye protection.

As a reminder, Public Health Ontario has provided the following guidance for staff areas:

IMPORTANT NOTE: Failure to abide by the careful use of PPE and strict limitations on PPE removal in the congregate setting is a known contributor to the spread of COVID-19 between staff and residents, and among staff.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Supply

Surgical/procedure masks, face shields and isolation gowns are considered ‘core’ PPE types and can be obtained via the Critical Supplies and Equipment (CSE) survey portal by reporting your current inventory, and your forecasted usage.

Eye goggles and safety glasses are considered a "niche" PPE type and can be obtained through the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) Shared Services PPE Order Page.

Service providers are asked to use discretion when ordering niche PPE (i.e. eye goggles or safety glasses) and should default to using core PPE (i.e. face shields) when operationally feasible.

Agencies should forecast their requirements based on this new standard in the CSE survey portal. In case of an emergency (i.e. COVID-19 outbreak, having less than a 5 day supply of PPE) organizations requiring additional surgical masks, eye protection and isolation gowns can request additional supply from the OACAS Shared Services PPE Order Page.

Screening questions

Screening in youth justice open and secure facilities must continue to include the following question to all individuals seeking to enter the setting:

  1. “Are you aware of the recommendations and restrictions in this community regarding gathering size, hand and respiratory hygiene, and the use of face coverings and masks?
  2. Are you following these recommendations and restrictions regularly outside this setting you are seeking to enter?”

Facility screening must also continue to be enhanced for staff with the following questions:

  1. “Do you understand that you are expected to properly don your personal protective equipment and wear it at all times in this setting with the exception of when you are eating?
  2. Do you acknowledge that at any time your PPE is removed you must maintain a distance of 2 metres or 6 feet from others?”

Please remember that interacting with colleagues outside of work without face coverings and social distancing raises the risks of COVID-19 transmission.

For a list of all COVID-19 symptoms and access additional screening tools please refer to the to the Government of Ontario COVID-19 Information Website.

Precautions for settings in an active outbreak

If a youth justice facility is in an active COVID-19 outbreak (one or more positive COVID-19 case), the following additional measures must be followed:

Other measures

The measures above are essential tools to addressing the risks of COVID-19 transmission in youth justice open and secure facilities.

While direct interactions connected to the workplace and youth justice facility settings are key, what we do in our personal lives also contributes directly to infection risks in those settings.  All Ontarians including staff at youth justice facilities MUST adhere strictly to practices in their personal life that help stop the spread of COVID-19.

These practices include maintaining at least 2 metres or 6 feet physical distance from others, using a face masks or covering when outside of your home,hand and respiratory hygiene, and limiting close contact (within 6 feet or 2 metres) only to people you live with in the same household.

To support these efforts, facilities should supplement these practices by setting measures to maintain and enhance work from home arrangements where it is not essential for employees to attend the workplace.

When a youth justice facility is in a community that is beginning to see increased community spread, the ministry will contact them to apply further precautions. These could include:

Wherever possible, essential visits such as those necessary to maintain the health, wellness and safety of a resident will be permitted to continue on a case by case basis unless the local public health unit directs otherwise as part of outbreak management. An essential visitor may include, but is not limited to a parent or guardian, a legal representative or a probation officer. For a full definition see the definition above.

Agencies should refer to the most recent communications they have received from the ministry to determine their current precaution level. Further precautions will remain in place until the setting has been notified by the ministry that the community’s level of COVID-related risk has changed.

Please note: the zones in the Province’s COVID Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open and the levels in the MCCSS guidance use the same weekly incidence rate as the threshold to move between levels. However, the MCCSS precautions are in addition to the restrictions for the general public and are specific to MCCSS congregate care settings. They have been developed to safeguard the health and well-being of residents and staff while mitigating risk to the highest degree possible.

Non-essential visits and reintegration leaves continue to be restricted in youth justice facilities until further notice.

Exceptions for non-essential in-person visits may be made at the discretion of the facility operator and the ministry, according to the Protocol: Exceptions for Non-Essential In-Person Visits for Youth at Youth Justice Custody/Detention Facilities.

Our number one priority is to protect the health and safety of those in youth justice settings, as well as those who care for them. Specific measures will be implemented on a location-by-location basis, following public health guidance.