Environmental Health Resources for the COVID-19 Pandemic

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The transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, occurs primarily via direct contact with or respiratory droplets from an infected person. However, there is evidence to suggest that transmission via other modes – such as contaminated surfaces, aerosols, or contact with fecal material – is possible. As such, environmental health practitioners have a key role to play in promoting general hygiene measures as well as addressing unique information needs as the pandemic affects all aspect of public and private life.

This topic page has been created to promote key COVID-19 resources to environmental health practitioners and related professions. We are actively collecting and curating resources from more than 50 Canadian and international public health agencies, and will be promoting those resources via social media and by providing the essential resources on this topic page. This information is current to the date at the bottom of the page.

You can also find additional COVID-19 resources on our other topic pages:



The Basics of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission

  • The Basics of SARS-CoV-2 Transmission (O'Keeffe, Freeman, and Nicol, March 2021) 
    This NCCEH publication provides a continuously updated synthesis of the basic virology and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to inform the measures taken to mitigate the spread of the virus.
  • What We Know So Far About…. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)  (Public Health Ontario, 2020)
    This series of reports provides succinct brief overviews of the evidence around COVID-19. Topics covered include the effectiveness of wearing masks in public, routes of transmission, asymptomatic transmission, and much more.
  • Database of public health guidance on COVID-19 (Health Information and Quality Authority, 2020)
    This database aggregates COVID-19 public health guidance documents produced by a number of European, North American, and other health organisations, and it is searchable by key word.
  • COVID-19 Evidence Network to Support Decision-making (McMaster University, 2020)
    This forum aggregates numerous health evidence-informed resources intended to assist both decision makers as well as researchers wishing to direct their efforts into producing useful COVID-19 KT resources.
  • COVID-19 Rapid Evidence Review (National Collaborating Centre for Methods and Tools, 2020)
    This webpage provides a place for researchers to share their upcoming or recently completed COVID-19 work. This effort is intended to reduce duplication of efforts amongst Canadian and international public health researchers. The results can be searched as well as refined according to topic area, jurisdiction, setting, and population.
  • State of the Science Reports (CanCOVID, 2020)
    These backgrounder documents are produced by CanCOVID, the network of Canadian COVID-19 researchers, clinical collaborators, and healthcare stakeholders. Topic areas include: Viral Composition and Molecular Fingerprint, COVID Symptoms and Disease, Viral Transmission, and Who is at Risk?


Atmospheric Pollution and COVID-19 Susceptibility


Built Environment

Cleaning and Disinfection in Community Settings


Death Care


Ethics and the Pandemic

  • Public Health Ethics and COVID-19: Selected Resources (National Collaborating Centre for Healthy Public Policy, 2020)
    This research scan aggregates relevant resources on ethical guidance for responding to the pandemic and provides a brief synthesis of each response.


First Responders


Food Safety and Food Security

  • Community refrigerators in the time of a pandemic: food-sharing safety (Van Osch, Jan 2021)
    This NCCEH blog looks at food-sharing during the COVID-19 pandemic and considerations for mitigating potential food safety risks.
  • Food businesses (BC Centre for Disease Control, 2020)
    This web page provides food safety and COVID-19-related information for grocery stores, restaurants, and other food premises based on current federal and provincial guidance. The drop down menus answers to queries around handling money, cards, and containers, as well as general sanitation and how to use disinfectants safely. The BCCDC has also created resources for food banks and farmer’s markets.
  • FAQs for the Food Industry (Institute for Food Safety at Cornell University, 2020)
    This webpage addresses frequently asked questions about food safety issues associated with COVID-19. It also provides tools and resources to help food services and food industry operators to reduce risk of transmission and improve the safety of their staff and premises.
  • Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): CFIA information for industry (Canadian Food Inspection Agency, 2020)
    This webpage provides information regarding the integrity of Canada’s food supply, best practices for those working in any food, plant, or animal production or processing, and other key concerns.

Health Equity

  • From risk to resilience: An equity approach to COVID-19 (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2020)
    This report from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer highlights the disproportionate negative impacts on marginalized communities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. It also outlines the strategies and opportunities to address these health inequities and emerge from this crisis as a more resilient nation.
  • Equity-informed responses to COVID-19 (National Collaborating Centre for Determinants of Health, 2020)
    This webpage provides numerous resources to help practitioners apply an equity lens to the pandemic response, which is critically important given the exacerbating effect of the pandemic on many of the stressors already impacting vulnerable populations.
  • Health Equity: Promoting Fair Access to Health (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020)
    This webpage explains the relationship between COVID-19 and the longstanding health inequities that are disproportionately impacting racialized groups. The webpage also provides a useful, high-level guide to developing a health equity strategy.


Indigenous Communities

  • What we heard: Indigenous Peoples and COVID-19: Public Health Agency of Canada’s companion report (Public Health Agency of Canada, March 2021) NEW
    This independent report, written by an Indigenous scholar and her team, summarizes discussions from two community engagement sessions with Indigenous partners in August and September 2020.
  • Sharing the Harvest during the Pandemic (First Nations Health Authority, 2020)
    This guidance document provides some additional measures and information resources to minimize the risk of disease transmission between community members who wish to share traditional foods within their community.
  • Infectious Questions: Pandemic preparedness in First Nations communities (National Collaborating Centre for Infectious Diseases, 2020)
    This podcast series looks at various public health aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including action in northern and remote communities, First Nations communities, and long-term care facilities. There are also episodes on engagement with public health nurses and general infection control and prevention.
  • Novel coronavirus (COVID-19 ) (First Nations Health Authority, 2020)
    This webpage contains numerous provincial and federal resources aimed at supporting Indigenous communities and individuals during the pandemic.


Indoor Environments


Mental health

  • L’anxiété et la dépression : une deuxième catastrophe au Québec (Université de Sherbrooke, 2020)
    This webpage describes current research involving NCCEH collaborator Dr. Mélissa Généreux regarding the psychosocial impacts of the pandemic on various populations within Quebec. The study draws on data collected international and potential measures to mitigate this secondary disaster are discussed.


Outdoor Environments

  • Bike Sharing during COVID-19 (Freeman, 2020)
    This NCCEH blog overviews some of the measures that bike-sharing programs have employed to continue operations while protecting worker safety and that of the public.


Performing Arts


Personal Protection: Masking and Hand Sanitizers

  • SARS-CoV-2: eye protection might be the missing key (Coroneo and Collignon, Feb 2021) NEW
    This commentary discusses the insufficiently explored additional effect of adding eye protection to masking on COVID-19 transmission.
  • Face shields in public: better than nothing, but not good enough (Eykelbosh, 2020) 
    This NCCEH blog looks at the some of the recent research on face shields as source control and personal protection, and provides a brief overview of some of the mask and shield alternatives being devised for specialized activities.
  • Masking during the COVID-19 pandemic (O'Keeffe 2020)
    This NCCEH publication synthesizes the evidence on the use of masks as a control measure to impede the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. This document outlines the main types of masks, their effectiveness in providing protection against pathogenic hazards, and considerations for the safe use.


Persons Experiencing Homelessness


Public Transit, Taxis, and Ride Sharing

  • Public Transport and COVID-19 – What We Know So Far (Public Health Ontario, December 2020)
    This evidence brief brings together what is known regarding the role of public transit in the public and identifies avenues for further research.
  • COVID-19 Information for Travellers (Transport Canada, 2020)
    This webpage provides frequently updated advice for those travelling by air, water, road, rail or public transit.
  • COVID-19: Guidance for the public transit industry (Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA), 2020)
    This webpage provides concise but comprehensive coverage of considerations for maintaining continuity of essential public transit services and is relevant for service providers, their employees as well as service users. Topics covered include communications, personal protection measures for drivers and passengers as well as contingency plans such as separation of services. The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) has a webinar series that compliments many of these topic areas.
  • COVID-19 Guidance for Taxi/Ride Share Employers, Drivers, Vehicle Owners (Toronto Public Health, 2020)
    This fact sheet provides tips on hygiene, respiratory etiquette, maintaining physical distancing within vehicles, and cleaning.
  • There Is Little Evidence That Mass Transit Poses a Risk of Coronavirus Outbreaks (Joselow, 2020)
    This media article highlights some of the challenges to our understanding of the role of public transit in disease transmission, and some of the negative public health impacts of decreased transit use.
  • Transportation and Infrastructure (Ash Center at Harvard Kennedy School, 2020)
    This article curates a list of how cities, states and transit agencies are adapting their practices and policies to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Risk Communication

  • Infodemic Resources (World Health Organization, 2020)
    This webpage provides a range of resources on COVID-19 messaging and risk communication. It also provides resources for the “Infodemic,” which refers to overabundlnce of mis-and disinformation related to the pandemic and its societal impacts.
  • COVID-19 Language Guide (BC Centre for Disease Control, 2020)
    This guidance document aims to assist with COVID-19 messaging and content development by using positive, acknowledging, and inclusive, rather than (potentially) stigmatizing language that may provoke fear.


Schools and Daycares


Screening and Sampling

  • Looking for COVID clues in our sewers (O'Keeffe, Jan 2021) 
    Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE), has been proposed as a tool for monitoring the occurrence, spread or resurgence of COVID-19 in the community by detecting viral signals in pooled samples of sewage. This NCCEH blog outlines the potential application of the technology, current research, and potential challenges for widespread deployment of WBE as a public health tool for pandemic management.
  • Environmental Surface and Air Sampling in the Context of COVID-19 Pandemic (Chen, 2020) 
    This NCCEH field inquiry provides an overview of sampling techniques and analysis methods of SARS-CoV-2 on surfaces and in the air, as well as considerations for interpreting the results in various settings and contexts during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Are temperature scanners just a lot of hot air? (O'Keeffe, 2020)
    This NCCEH blog examines the use of temperature scanners in previous pandemics and the limitations of the practice in controlling transmission of infectious diseases.


Smoking, Vaping, and Cannabis

  • Tobacco and E-Cigarettes (Public Health Ontario, 2020)
    This webpage features general health promotion resources for tobacco, as well as two specific products addressing the public health impacts of COVID-19 and vaping, as well as exposure to tobacco products.
  • Tobacco and waterpipe use increases the risk of COVID-19 (World Health Organization, 2020)
    This webpage addressed frequently asked questions regarding the effect of concurrent tobacco use and COVID-19 severity, as well as the inherent risk of social practices like hookah in amplifying transmission.

Variants of Concern NEW

  • Transmission characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (Curran et al., SPOR Evidence Alliance, Mar 2021)
    This research brief summarizes evidence as of March 2021 on transmission characteristics of the three SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern B.1.1.7, B.1.351 and P.1.

  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): Epidemiology update. (Public Health Agency of Canada, Apr. 2021)
    This epidemiological update on COVID-19 from the Public Health Agency of Canada includes daily (Sun-Thurs) updates on the cumulative number of cases of variants of concern circulating in Canada by Province and Territory. 

  • COVID-19 variants of concern (Public Health Ontario, Mar 2021)
    Public Health Ontario has produced "What we know so far" synopses for each of three main variants of concern circulating in Canada, B.1.1.7B.1.351 and P.1, summarizing current knowledge of key characteristics including epidemiology, transmissibility, immunity.

  • SARS-CoV-2 Variant Classifications and Definitions (US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Apr 2021)
    This website provides an overview of the definitions of variants of concern, variants under investigation and variants of high consequence, and details of variants currently assigned to each classification.

Water and Wastewater

  • Looking for COVID clues in our sewers (O’Keeffe, January 2021)
    Wastewater based epidemiology (WBE), has been proposed as a tool for monitoring the occurrence, spread or resurgence of COVID-19 in the community by detecting viral signals in pooled samples of sewage. This blog outlines the potential application of the technology, current research, and potential challenges for widespread deployment of WBE as a public health tool for pandemic management.
  • Ethics and communications guidance for wastewater surveillance (Canadian Water Network, 2020) 
    This guidance document sets out the ethical considerations and guidance for communication about wastewater-based epidemiology, as an application of public health surveillance.
  • Comparison of Approaches to Quantify SARS-CoV-2 RNA in Wastewater (Canadian COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition, 2020)
    This report summarizes the findings of an inter-laboratory study conducted Jul-Sep 2020 to compare methods and recommend quality assurance and quality control practices for monitoring COVID-19 in wastewater. The document highlights challenges and considerations for measurement of viral RNA in wastewater.


Zoonotic Transmission


This list is not intended to be exhaustive. Omission of a resource does not preclude it from having value.

Last updated Mar 21, 2021