virus

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) –
Volunteering

Last reviewed/updated: 3:35 p.m., May 25, 2020

This information is meant to assist community agencies who may be making use of volunteers in the delivery of their programs and services during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In addition to the information below, please refer to the general COVID-19 information webpage.


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Resources
Information for Agencies
For People Looking to Volunteer


Resources:

The following websites may be accessed for more information or resources such as signage:

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Information for Agencies

Suggestions when recruiting and mobilizing volunteers

  • You can post volunteer opportunities on the SPARK Ontario Indicate whether the opportunity relates to “COVID-19 Support”.
  • Require a police record check for volunteers. There are different types of records that can be requested. However, there may be delays or limitations to conduct police record checks at this time, so consider whether your agency can be flexible in the type of police record check provided, or how recently it was done.
  • Request other certifications that may be required for the type of work. For example, a Food Handlers Certification.
  • Ask current and prospective volunteers to take the Self-Assessment to determine if they should be self-isolating.
  • Inform prospective volunteers about potential risks of the work and what measures are being taken to reduce the risks.
    • Agencies should assess all the risks of the work and inform volunteers of these risks – Risks will be specific to the setting and type of work. Examples:
      • “This work entails bringing multiple (e.g. up to five) people together into a room whose COVID-19 status is unknown”.
      • “This work may be challenging for your psychological well-being”.
    •  As appropriate, inform volunteers how the agency is working to reduce risks to volunteers, staff and clients, and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Examples:
      • “We require volunteers to stay home if they aren’t feeling well and not to come in until they are 24-hours symptom-free”;
      • “We are limiting the number of people in the room to five, and we are asking that all volunteers and clients keep at least two metres between each other”;
      • “We provide masks to volunteers in situations where two metres distance between people cannot be consistently maintained”;
      • “We have modified our services to limit contacts between volunteers and the public, by dropping-off goods to the client’s doorstep”;
      • “We have a staff person who is there to listen if you’re needing someone to speak with about your psychological wellbeing”.
  • Collect contact information for each volunteer.
    • Inform the volunteer that this information will be confidentially recorded. The contact information may be accessed and used by Public Health if someone associated with the agency (staff, volunteer or client) tests positive with COVID-19 (“contact tracing”).

Protecting Volunteers and Staff

Agencies can protect volunteers and staff by having an infection control plan which may include details such as:

  • Requiring volunteers to stay home if they are experiencing any symptoms.
  • Encouraging good hygiene, including hand washing and providing hand sanitation stations.
    • Providing clean hand washing facilities.
    • Offering alcohol-based hand sanitizers when regular facilities are not available (or to people on the road).
    • Reminding volunteers that they should clean their hands upon arrival, frequently throughout the shift and once they return home.
    • Providing boxes of tissues and encourage their use, followed by hand washing.
    • Reminding volunteers to cough or sneeze into their sleeve and not into their hands.
  • Cleaning of high traffic areas and high touch surfaces such as doorknobs, handles, railings, kettles, etc. more often with regular disinfectants or soap and water.
  • Implementing measures so that workers can keep at least two metres distance between each other at all times (physical distancing)
    • Techniques can include physical distancing of work spaces, allowing volunteers to work from home, and staggering shift start and end times.
  • If physical distancing between individuals cannot be maintained, it is recommended that such these individuals (i.e. staff and volunteers) wear non-medical masks.
  • Offering pre-packaged refreshments to volunteers, if refreshments are provided. Avoid opportunities where food or beverage cup/containers could be in contact with more than one person.
  • Reminding staff/volunteers to not share cups, glasses, dishes and cutlery. Be sure dishes are washed in soap and water and sanitized after use.
  • Ensuring proper food handling, if applicable. Have volunteer review Food Handler manual (comprehensive resource), or General tips depending on how much this applies to their role.
  • Making sure ventilation systems are working properly.
  • Modifying service operations to reduce person-to-person contact (See next section).
  • Having a plan in the event that a staff person, volunteer or client becomes ill on premises. They should be given a mask, separated from others, supported to access health care services, and sent home immediately.

How can we modify service delivery to reduce risk of spreading COVID-19?

This may look different for different settings. Examples may include:

  • Enabling staff or volunteers to work from home;
  • Spreading out work in the work space and ensuring workers are separated by at least two metres;
  • Delivering goods to the client’s door step, while implementing good hand hygiene and appropriate distance (two metres) between volunteer and client at all times;
  • If your agency is offering services to clients who are symptomatic and/or self-isolating, consider ways to meet their needs but limit in-person contact as much as possible. Consider use of a telephone, and having someone pick up things they are in need of.

If you are adapting your services, you can contact public health to help you decide what will work best to meet the need in your community while keeping everyone as healthy as possible. Email covid19@peterboroughpublichealth.ca

The province is leading the development of sector-specific guidelines as businesses, services and public places continue to reopen, visit Reopening Ontario for more information.

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For People Looking to Volunteer

Places to Volunteer

  • Many community agencies need volunteers to continue to offer vital programs and services at this time.
  • You can find related volunteer opportunities on the SPARK Ontario One of the categories for opportunities is “COVID-19 Support” and the platform will connect you with available postings in your area.
  • You may also want to reach out local volunteer agencies or local clubs that you are familiar with to see if they are in need of a volunteer at this time. The Volunteer Connection website also provides a list of general volunteer opportunities and the agency contact information. This site is associated with 211 Central East Ontario.
  • Health Care Providers looking to help can register to Ontario’s COVID-19 Workforce Matching Program.

Get Informed, Protect Yourself

  • When considering where you might volunteer, consider the potential risks of the work and how these risks are being minimized?
  • Risks of the work depends on many things. Risks can be reduced by:
  • physical distancing – keeping at least two metres between yourself and others. If physical distancing cannot be maintained, it is recommended to wear a non-medical mask
  • Risk also varies based on your vulnerability as a volunteer or your close contacts
    • There is an increased risk of more severe outcomes for Canadians:
      • aged 70 years and over
      • with underlying medical conditions (e.g. heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, cancer)
      • with a compromised immune system from a medical condition or treatment (e.g. chemotherapy)
  • It is not known whether pregnant women are at a greater risk for more serious outcomes related to COVID-19. In general, it is important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.
  • Consider your own situation as well as your close contacts, and whether this work may put yourself or vulnerable people in your life at risk.

How can you contribute to a safe work space?

  • Most importantly, stay home if you are not feeling well. Complete the Self-Assessment of your risk of COVID-19. Follow the recommendations provided.
  • If you are coming to a shared space to volunteer, you should follow recommendations to reduce risks:
    • Proper hand hygiene /hand washing or use of hand sanitizer
      • You should clean your hands upon arrival, frequently throughout the shift and once you return home.
    • Cough or sneeze into your sleeve and not into your hands.
    • Do not share cups/glasses, dishes and cutlery that have not been cleaned.
    • Keep at least two metres between you and others (physical distancing).
      • If physical distancing cannot be maintained, it is recommended to wear a non-medical mask.
    • Be aware of your settings. If there seems to be inadequate cleaning, hygiene or physical distancing, bring this forward to your supervisor.
    • Tell your supervisor if you are concerned about the health and safety of yourself, other volunteers, or of clients due to the way they service is being operated.
    • If you start feeling ill during a volunteer shift, separate yourself from others immediately. Put on a mask if possible. Determine a plan for getting home and access health services if needed. Keep the agency informed on how you are doing.
  • You should be asked to provide your contact information. If someone associated with the service (e.g. staff, volunteer or client) tests positive for COVID-19, the agency may have to provide public health with your contact information for follow-up.
References:

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