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Yard sales strongly discouraged by health unit

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If you’re in the middle of spring cleaning, avoid organizing a garage sale or yard sale until further notice. 

The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit strongly discourages local residents from organizing or holding garage and yard sales during COVID-19. Having these types of sales can increase people’s exposure to COVID-19 and lead to the spread of the virus in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. 

“The nicer weather means many people may be spring cleaning and looking to sell and get rid of unwanted items,” says Lynne Franke, Manager of Organizational Initiatives with the Health Unit. “This year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Health Unit urges you to postpone holding a garage sale. Doing so will protect you, your loved ones and your community from getting sick with COVID-19.” 

While the Province’s COVID-19 emergency directives do not prohibit garage sales and yard sales, they do ban public gatherings and events of more than five people. Some Ontario municipalities have also approved bylaws to ban garage and yard sales entirely during the pandemic. Although no such bylaw bans are in place in the local Health Unit’s region, Franke says voluntarily postponing garage sales is the best advice. 

“Hosting a garage or yard sale can put you and those who attend it in harm’s way,” she adds. “Unlike stores that are required to put in safety measures to protect employees and customers, garage and yard sales do not have those precautions. There’s also the fact that the COVID-19 virus can survive on different surfaces for different lengths of time, meaning potential buyers who touch or pick up items at a sale could be exposing themselves to illness.” 

The Health Unit also warns that keeping a safe two-metre (six-foot) physical distance at a garage sale is difficult, given that cash transactions are usually required and the number of people who stop by at a sale can grow unexpectedly. Many times, garage sale enthusiasts may also visit multiple sale locations increasing the risk of the spread of COVID-19. As Franke notes: “A garage sale won’t only impact your property, but can affect your neighbours creating health concerns for them as well.” 

If people are eager to sell unwanted items or buy second-hand items, they may look to online portals to do so. But even there, the Health Unit is also advising caution, suggesting local residents limit any transactions to only essential items and be watchful for potential scams. If purchasing items, be sure to thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water and try to arrange curbside pickup and delivery. 

People should also be aware that baby walkers, infant self-feeding devices and other items are banned products in Canada. There are also common second-hand items like car seats, cribs, helmets, playpens, strollers, children’s jewellery and kids’ sleepwear that must meet certain federal regulatory requirements before they can be bought or sold in Canada.


  1. I respectfully disagree with this notion dictated to us by the Health Unit. The Health Unit needs to stick to its core services and refrain from making comments that put us into different class systems. I will explain further;

    The past 50 days have been a real eye opener with respect to individual civil liberties and what citizens are “allowed” to do now that the number of the corona virus cases have subsided to a point where we can slowly return to normal > Yes normal not the “new normal ” that some are saying. Our Mayor & Council in Kawartha Lakes have now begun easing restrictions and are opening under strict health protocol landfills, boat launches, rail trails , transit and farmers markets.

    I would like to thanks all the citizens of Ward 6 for their tremendous patience in enduring these government orders . In some countries like India and states in the US citizens are still enduring punitive measures especially in New York and Michigan. In New York the Governor actually filled the long term care homes with infected Covid patients and as a result thousands died because of this insane direction. NYC and New Jersey have the highest amounts in the US. In Canada we are proportionality just as high as we failed to secure and close our borders earlier to infected areas in the world .

    Proactive countries like New Zealand (where I lived and worked for a year), Australia and the U.S. did. Our healthcare workers are doing an amazing job and I want to thank them for their service during this critical time.

    Getting back to yard sales it is in the best interest of the seller and buyer at these locations that each party will respect their physical distancing . Its amazing how we have health officials telling us we cant go to a yard sale with maybe 2 or 3 people but say nothing about hundreds of people lining up for large stores like Walmart and Loblaws . These large stores have provided the proper safety protocol and are needed. What is also needed is the ability for people to be able to purchase an item from their smaller business retailer especially in our smaller towns and villages. These businesses are suffering the most and many unfortunately may not make it through this crisis as the government authorities deem them a higher risk?

    Finally the use of cash . Many people do not have a debit or credit card. In fact banks do not allow those who have weaker credit to obtain one and as a result they need the ability to use cash. Cash is not a dirty word but the governments and global think tanks seem to want to eliminate it.
    By telling people not to frequent yard or garage sales they are basically saying you are in a lower class of people and thats not right. I represent all demographics and income groups in my Ward and proud of all the people regardless of their economic status , they work hard.. Its time that we stand up for those who are trying to make a few dollars and those who want to get out of their forced lock down and purchase items they need regardless if its a yard sale purchase. I trust the people simple as that.

    Ron Ashmore
    Councillor Ward 6
    Kawartha Lakes.

  2. You make some important points with regard to being overly ‘classist’ as a society when we make rules or recommendations for the public good. Everyone’s needs should be taken into account.

    Yes, there would likely be far fewer people at a yard sale and cooperative social distancing could be just as easy there as a long line at Loblaws. However, the stores have rigorous cleaning practices in place where individuals holding a yard sale would most likely not.

    Your figures about COVID-19 infection rates and deaths comparing Canada to the U.S. are incorrect though.

    You write: “In Canada we are proportionality just as high as we failed to secure and close our borders earlier to infected areas in the world .” Even per capita, the U.S. has twice the death rate of Canada’s and more than twice the infection rate.

    The U.S. may have closed their borders first but they did not do a good job of flattening the curve. We have nothing to learn from the U.S. on this matter — other than what not to do.

  3. One of the many roles of the Health Unit during this difficult time, is to provide information about COVID-19 so people can make informed decisions for themselves. Health units are also tasked with looking at population health, which is the health of the entire community, and making recommendations or taking action to help protect the health of all people living in our communities.

    Garage and yard sales pose a risk of spreading COVID-19. Some Ontario municipalities have chosen to prohibit garage and yard sales to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Where they are not prohibited, the Health Unit is strongly discouraging the community from participating in them.

    Unlike essential businesses, which have been provided detailed health and safety guidelines, garage and yard sales are both informal and unpredictable. Garage sale hosts, who are not business owners but individuals, could find themselves with many unexpected visitors on their personal property. Hosts may not be prepared or have the resources needed to effectively limit gatherings of visitors to less than five people, as is currently required by the Provincial Emergency Order. They also may not be prepared to ensure visitors to their yard sale follow the appropriate physical distancing guidelines.

    It is the recommendation of this Health Unit that residents postpone participating in all garage and yard sales until the risk of spreading COVID-19 is reduced.

    I appreciate how hard the fight against COVID-19 has been for our community, but our fight is not yet over. We must work together to continue efforts to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the virus in our communities.

    Dr. Lynn Noseworthy
    Medical Officer of Health
    Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit

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