How Red Cross is responding to COVID-19 in Ontario

Red Cross worker outside wearing medical mask and protective eyewearIn the context of COVID-19, the Canadian Red Cross is adapting its practices to continue helping with emergencies and to support the various levels of government as part of their response to the pandemic.

In Ontario, the Red Cross is working in partnership with the federal and provincial governments,local Public Health Units and First Nations leadership to provide programs and services to help individuals and communities in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Health and safety are our top priorities so we are also adapting programs and services to follow guidelines set out by public health authorities in order to keep volunteers, staff and community members safe.

List of Services

Vaccination Support

Operating mobile vaccination clinics in the GTA
At the request of the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Canadian Red Cross is operating mobile vaccination clinics in the Greater Toronto Area. Red Cross teams include a range of both clinical and nonclinical staff providing support, including registration, onsite logistics support, vaccination, and aftercare monitoring. Each of these mobile clinic teams have the capacity to administer approximately 300 to 500 vaccinations per day and may in some cases work together on the same site.
Support for vaccination efforts across the province
Red Cross teams have been deployed across Ontario in support of local Public Health Units and First Nations leadership. These include the following current active operations:
  • At the request of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, Canadian Red Cross has been assisting in a non-clinical capacity at COVID-19 vaccination clinics in Eastern Ontario. Red Cross teams have been greeting people as they arrive for their vaccinations, monitoring intake and post-vaccination areas.
  • At the request of Porcupine Health Unit, the Red Cross has been assisting in a non-clinical capacity at various COVID-19 vaccination clinics.
  • At the request of Six Nations of the Grand River, Canadian Red Cross has been providing non-clinical site support at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Gaylord Powless Arena. Red Cross teams also assisted with the setup of the clinic.
 In addition, the Red Cross has completed the following operations:
  • At the request of Akwesasne First Nation, the Red Cross provided clinical support to a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on assigned clinic dates in April and May 2021.
  • In support of the North Toronto Ontario Health Team and North York Toronto Health Partners, including Baycrest Centre and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canadian Red Cross provided assistance with COVID-19 vaccinations in Toronto. Red Cross personnel provided onsite logistics support and assistance with registration at the Englemount-Lawrence vaccination clinic, as well as clinical after-care monitoring.
  • Canadian Red Cross teams canvassed tenants of Toronto Community Housing buildings within the North Toronto Ontario Health Team catchment area. Canadian Red Cross teams also canvassed tenants of identified Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) buildings in North York.
Operation Remote Immunity in Northern First Nations Communities
At the request of the Government of Ontario and with leadership from Ornge, the Canadian Red Cross provided clinical support to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in three Northern communities. Red Cross teams provided support through Operation Remote Immunity. Teams provided clinical vaccination support in Sandy Lake, Poplar Hill, and Cat Lake. 

Support for Intensive Care Units in Hospitals

The Red Cross is working in support of the federal and provincial governments to provide teams of nurses and physicians to augment or relieve existing hospital staff in the Greater Toronto area who have been working tirelessly to provide care during the pandemic. Support is determined based on the needs of the hospitals.

Distributing food to those in need

In partnership with the City of Toronto, the Red Cross has been delivering food hampers to those isolated at home without other options for food delivery or pickup services. Volunteers have been delivering pre-assembled food baskets containing several days worth of shelf stable items, including canned goods, pasta, rice and other items. The program is not taking on additional clients at this time.
For those requiring assistance, please contact 2-11 

Support for migrant agricultural workers in Windsor-Essex

Working in support of the City of Windsor, as well as provincial and local health authorities, the Red Cross has provided assistance at multiple isolation sites in the Windsor-Essex region, following COVID-19 outbreaks in the workplace. Red Cross teams continue to support an isolation site for workers who need to self-isolate, by providing registration, meal delivery, and personal hygiene and comfort items. 

Read about how Red Cross volunteers are providing support.

Voluntary isolation site in York Region

The Red Cross is supporting York Region’s voluntary isolation centre for individuals who need an alternative place to self-isolate while they are awaiting test results or require a place to stay to protect the health and safety of their families.  Red Cross teams are providing registration for lodging and room assignment, meal delivery service, personal hygiene and comfort items to individuals in isolation.

Support to long-term care and retirement homes

At the request of the Government of Ontario, with funding from the Government of Canada, the Red Cross is assisting long-term care and retirement homes in Ontario. The Red Cross works alongside the management and staff of each home to determine how to best support the home. Teams are providing epidemic prevention and control support to ensure health and safety protocols, as recommended by the public health authorities, are maintained throughout the home.

Here’s how one Red Cross member supported residents at a long-term care home

Friendly Calls

Through the Friendly Calls program, Red Cross staff and volunteers help provide comfort and assistance, emotional support, and referrals to community services for people who may be feeling isolated or lonely, who may have limited social and family connections, or who feel they could benefit from more social interaction. In Ontario, the Friendly Calls program is currently calling existing clients. Since March 2020, more than 42,400 friendly phone calls have been made. 
For more information on the program and to find services near you

Rapid Testing for Firefighters

The Red Cross is working in support of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to provide Panbio Rapid Antigen screening to firefighters and support personnel battling wildfires during the 2021 fire season in Northern Ontario. Over 30 Red Cross public health specialists and emergency care workers administer hundreds of tests per week at more than a dozen sites in the region located in communities such as Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, and North Bay.

Support for Kashechwan First Nation

A committed team of Red Cross personnel assisted the fly-in community of Kashechewan First Nation to address a COVID-19 outbreak that saw over 200 cases of the virus reported in the community of close to 1,700 people. Red Cross volunteers and staff worked with partner agencies to provide support services including epidemic prevention and control, risk management, wellness visits and the management and distribution of community supplies.


Ottawa Outreach through the Human Needs Task Force

As an active partner with the City of Ottawa’s Human Needs Task Force, Red Cross teams are conducting outreach activities to address emerging community needs. This has previously included the distribution of COVID-19 information and awareness materials, conducting door-to-door wellness visits within designated communities such as Ottawa Community Housing buildings, and providing onsite staffing support and needs referrals at various fixed sites such as the Seed and Soil Project.

New measures implemented for the delivery of emergency relief services

With the necessity of physical distancing in mind, our Emergency Management team has mobilized a Virtual Personal Disaster Assistance team that continues to meet the needs of Ontarians who face emergencies such as house fires or floods. The virtual nature of this team allows them to continue to provide comfort and care, community referrals, and identify and meet basic needs of affected individuals from a distance.

How you can help
The Canadian Red Cross is prepared and ready to support Canadians now during the COVID-19 pandemic and into the spring and summer as we anticipate floods, wildfires and other disasters that will affect families and communities. The best way you can support our work is with a donation now to the Canadian Emergencies & COVID-19 Response Fund.  

We have also opened a COVID-19 Global Appeal, which will enable the Red Cross/Red Crescent across the world to support COVID-19 preparedness, response and recovery activities.

Additional Resources

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