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Ontario Condos Moving onto “Step 2”

Yesterday, Ontario announced that, having surpassed all of the set targets, it was moving the province onto Step 2 of its 3-Step roadmap to reopening Ontario.  This is coming a little earlier than initially scheduled and will be effective as of June 30, 2021.

In this post, we explore what Step 2 means for condos in Ontario.

Overview

Step 2 is really a slightly modified version of the old “Red Zone”.  For condos, restrictions under Step 2 are very similar to those in place under Step 1.  So don’t expect too many changes.

Ontario was anticipating moving all of its 34 Public Health Regions, in lock step, onto Step 2 but media is reporting that the Waterloo Health Region will stay in Step 1 as it grapples with high COVID numbers and with the Delta variant.  As of the time of publication, the applicable regulation did not reflect this exception for Waterloo.

We will move into Step 2 on June 30, 2021 and are expected to stay there until July 21, 2021, which is 21 days later.  Step 2 could, of course, be  shortened by the province.

Finally, as I’m sure I will be asked, Step 2 regulations apply to “businesses” or “places”. In our view, there is no doubt that they therefore apply to condos.

Masks

Face masks covering one’s nose, mouth and chin are still required in all interior common areas, with the usual exceptions related to age, health and disability. This applies to indoor common elements unless the corporation is able to ensure that a 2-metre distance is maintained.

Stated otherwise, wear your mask.

Public gathering

Organized public events and gathering continue to be regulated:

  • Indoors gathering are limited to 5 people;
  • Outdoor gatherings are limited to 25 people (with some non-condo relevant exceptions)

These limits expressly apply even if the gathering or events is held in a private dwelling or a condominium building. Some exceptions may apply if you hold your AGM at a venue such as a conference/convention centre, provided that the restrictions applicable to them are respected.  

There are exceptions for people of the same household (or a household and someone who lives alone).

Strictly speaking, you could hold your board meetings inside now, provided that there are no more than 5 participants, but why not continue with virtual meetings?  They work very well.

Screening

Condos must post signs at all entrances to their premises informing individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering and must actively screen anyone who works at the condo.  We have found that posting a QR code at your entrance (allowing users to screen themselves using their smartphone) is very easy and useful.  You can read more about it here.

Pools

Outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, wading pools and slides can open.

Indoor pools and pads must remain closed.

All steam rooms and saunas must be closed (indoors and outdoors).

If you open your (outdoor) water facilities, you must abide by the following:

  • The users must maintain a physical distance of at least 2 metres;
  • Anyone engaging in a physical exercise in this amenity (including training, sports or games) must maintain a physical distance of at least 3 metres;
  • Activities likely to result in contact or close proximity cannot be practiced in these amenities;
  • Team sports must not be practiced or played (except for training sessions for members of a sports team).

The above rules are relaxed for members of a single household.

Naturally, we recommend you consider implementing the following:

  • Adapting the layout and access to your pool to facilitate compliance with  the regulation and other public health guidance;
  • Removing (or reducing) furniture;
  • Not providing any items to be shared by users (noodles and other floatation devices should be provided by the users themselves);
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting;
  • Having the users book their spot (no walk ins);
  • Actively screening the users for COVID symptoms;
  • Recording tracing information (name, contact information, etc) and keeping this information for at least one month.

Sports and fitness amenities

As it pertains to condos, the long and short of it is this: only outdoor fitness or sports facilities can be open under Step 2, and only provided that they comply with the following conditions:

  • Outdoors only (I know I have said this already. I want it to sink in);
  • The users must maintain a minimum 3-metre distance while exercising (or 2 metres any other time);
  • No team sports or game that may result in personal contact;
  • Participants must be actively screened for COVID – although this may only apply to team sports or exercise classes.  In our view, it is prudent to continue to actively screen everyone;
  • Tracing information must be kept for a period of at least 1 month.  This info can only be disclosed to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and promotion Act;
  • There no longer appears to be a requirement to book your spot in advance, which appears to indicate that walk-ins are now permitted. Still, our strong recommendation is that condos continue to require their users to book their spots ahead of time.  That is the easiest way to ensure compliance with all requirement and data collection for screening and tracing purposes.

Your indoor fitness rooms must remain closed. (I know, I know! It’s the third time I say this.)

There are exceptions to the above but they don’t really pertain to condos as they are limited to allowing more flexibility for high-performance athletes, professional sports team and professional sports as well as facilities providing services to children, youth, and mental health support.

Both indoor and outdoor sports and recreational fitness amenities can, but do not have to, open for the sole purpose of allowing a person with a disability to use the amenity if they have received written instruction for  physical therapy from a regulated health professional who is qualified to provide these instructions and only if that person is not able to engage in this physical therapy elsewhere.

Keep in mind that the fact you can open these, does not mean you necessarily should.  Condos can also be more restrictive and opt to keep those closed.

Multi-purpose indoor amenities

Indoor multi-purpose facilities / amenities may open but only for the purpose of providing indoor activities and services other than sports and recreational fitness.

So, card, billiards or game rooms or other such amenities could open if you meet all of the other requirements (such as mask wearing, 2 metre distancing, capacity limits, etc).  Keep in mind that the fact you can open these, does not mean you necessarily should.  Condos can also be more restrictive and opt to keep those closed.

Outdoor amenities

The new regulations no longer provide a restricted list of exterior amenities that can open. In my view this means that, other than the restrictions applicable to pools and fitness facilities, condo corporations can (but don’t have to) reopen their outdoor amenities.  Think of rooftop terraces, communal BBQs, garden areas, etc.

If you are going to reopen your outdoor amenities, consider implementing the following protocols:

  • Advance (and preferably online) booking;
  • Gathering and keeping for a month tracing information (such as the name and coordinates of the users);
  • Screening the users for COVID symptoms;
  • Limit the number of users to a number than can maintain a 2-metre distance but to no more than 25 users;
  • Limit the use of these amenities to residents (without visitors);
  • Don’t provide any furniture or tools (such as BBQ tool) and don’t provide any other communal amenities (kitchenette, etc). Instead, users should bring their own furniture and tools;
  • Consider posting signs (and possibly floor markers) to direct traffic and remind users of social distancing;
  • Consider providing alcohol-based disinfectant by the entrances and disinfecting wipes; and,
  • While it is a good idea to insist that users clean/disinfect before and after each use, the corporation is ultimately responsible to clear and disinfect as required to maintain sanitary conditions.

Keep in mind that condos can be more restrictive and opt not to reopen these.

Safety plan

As we read it, a Safety Plan is required if you are going to operate a sports or recreational fitness amenities.  The regulation calls this plan a Health and Safety protocol. In our view, this safety plan should describe the measures and procedures implemented to reduce the risk of COVID transmission.  It should include protocols on screening, physical distancing, masks, and cleaning/disinfecting of surfaces, etc.

It should be in writing and should be posted in a conspicuous place where the users can see it.

Remote working

Anyone working for the condo should conduct their work remotely unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace. So, some of your service providers may have to work from the condo (superintendent, cleaner, concierge….).  Others should work remotely. Some of the management work can be done remotely.

Cleaning disinfecting

Condos must continue to clean and disinfect any areas, amenities or equipment that is provided to or used by members of the public as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.  This applies, naturally, to washrooms, elevators, high touch areas, mircom dial pads, etc.

Short-term accommodations

Short-term accommodations can proceed and are no longer limited to situations where there was a need for accommodations.  Keep in mind that your municipality or condo corporation may have restrictions on what short-term rentals can take place in your complex.

Keep in mind, however, that those benefiting from short-term rentals cannot be provided access to indoor pools, steam room, saunas, whirlpools, fitness or recreational centres.

safety plan only required for business.

Others

Condos must continue to comply with:

  • the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including any advice, recommendations or instructions on physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.

Essential services

Step 2 regulations no longer appears to have a list of permitted essential services allowed to operate but naturally, the following continues to be allowed:

  • laundromats;
  • Lawncare and snow clearing;
  • Security services;
  • Deliveries (your lobbies and concierge office will continue to be flooded);
  • Maintenance, repair and property management related to the safety, security, sanitation and operations of the building or residential properties; and,
  • All constructions activities or projects and related services (these are no longer limited to residential and other exceptions that existed before).

You can review Step-2 Regulation here.

 

 

Updated at 9:22 on June 27, 2021


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