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New condo measures in response to the Omicron variant

On December 17, Ontario announced a series of new measures in response to the rapidly-spreading and highly transmissible Omicron variant.  These measures will have an impact on condos across Ontario.

In this post, we summarize the most important new measures.  These measures will be in effect starting Sunday December 19, 2021.

Reduced capacity limits

For the most part, the new measures are aimed at reducing the capacity limits of most indoor public settings to 50% of their normal capacity.  This reduced capacity is determined by reducing in half the maximum occupant load of the facility as calculated under the Ontario’s Fire Code.

In the condo setting, this reduced capacity applies to:

  • Indoor facilities used for sports and recreational fitness activities (ie, gyms);
  • Indoor recreational amenities. Of note, these were already supposed to operate at 50% capacity.

The reduced capacity limit also applies to numerous non-condo settings such as restos, bars, retailers, shopping centers, entertainment venues, etc., etc.

Social gathering limits

Perhaps the most important condo-relevant change is the reduction in social gathering limits.  Of interest however (and as baffling as this may be), the new gathering limits apply to “social gatherings” but not to “organized public events”. The new limits are as follows:

  • Indoor social gatherings are limited to 10 people (down from 25);
  • Outdoor social gatherings are limited to 25 people (down from 100);
  • Indoor organized public events continue to be limited to 25.

The regulation does not define “social gatherings” or “organized public events” and does not provide any clues as to what is the difference between these two.

Frankly, we are a bit at a loss here:

  • Are meetings of the board or meeting of owners an “organized public event”? They probably are.
  • What about condo dwellers meeting for a holiday cheer in the lobby or party room? Is that a “social gathering”?

I hope the province clarifies this.  In the meantime, we continue to recommend that you hold virtually any and all meetings which can be held that way. We also recommend that condo corporation not hold social gatherings.

Gyms and recreational amenities

If your condo has opened its gym, pool or other recreational amenities, the following must be implemented:

  • Reduced capacity limit to 50% of what is allowed by the Fire Code or less to permit 2-m distance;
  • Posting a conspicuous sign advising of the limit capacity (identify the precise number of users allowed; don’t just post a sign saying “50%”;
  • COVID screening those using the amenities;
  • Contact tracing information (such as the name and contact information) of the users must be recorded and 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;
  • Safety Plan are not strictly required for gyms (unless there are organized sports taking place) but are required for other indoor recreational amenities.

Keep in mind that these new measures do not mean that condo must open their amenities. It just means that they must implement these measures if they open them. Condos continue to have a duty and the authority to control and manage common elements and to ensure the reasonable safety of those using them.  They therefore can close their amenities or impose even stricter measures (such as further reducing capacity limits, or even requiring proof of vaccination.

Additional municipal public health measures

Various municipalities have adopted additional (or parallel) measures in response to the Omicron variant. Here are a few examples of these:

Toronto

Toronto City council has extended it’s COVID-19 bylaws (541-2020 and 664-2020) until the day after the first Council meeting of April 2022. Specifically these bylaws require that people wear masks or face covering in enclosed  common areas of apartments and condominiums.

You can read the press release here and the Report for Action dated December 14, 2021.

Ottawa

On December 17, Ottawa Public Health issued its own letter of instructions, ordering additional capacity limits and public health measures.  The letter of instruction applies to all employers and all persons responsible for a business or organization allowed to be opened.

For the most part, the Letter of Instruction is in line with Ontario’s latest measures. We suspect that this letter was issued prior to knowing what measures Ontario would implement.

You can read the letter here.

Kingston

As of December 13, 2021, the Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington area Public Health Unit has announced that all indoor or outdoor social gatherings or organized public events must be limited to 5 people.

More info

For a full set of measures currently applicable to STEP 3, consult our COVID TOOL.

You can read Ottawa Public Health’s most recent letter of instructions on capacity limits and additional public health measures.

You can read Ontario’s press release here.

You can read the new regulation amending Step 3 measures.

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