Ontario has announced the reopening of nearly all business and public spaces (with proper public health and workplace safety measures/restrictions) in areas moving onto Stage 3. This is effective as early as this Friday. Naturally, the next question for our readers is: what does that mean for condos? The answer continues to be the same: it depends on each condo corporation but read on for more details.
Click here for an easy-to-follow chart with your new (post-covid) AGM deadlines and deadlines to send your preliminary notice.
What areas are entering Stage 3
Most of Ontario is entering Stage 3 as of this Friday, with the exception of Central East, the GTA, Central West and South West. You can read more about Stage 3, what it means to most and which areas remain in Stage 2 for now. At the beginning of each week, the province will continue to reassess local trends in public health indicators, including rates of transmission and hospital capacity, to determine whether the remaining regions can enter Stage 3 (or whether we need to reverse back into Stage 2).
What does Stage 3 mean?
Generally speaking, as part of Stage 3, Ontario will increase gathering limits as follows:
- Indoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 50 people
- Outdoor gathering limits will increase to a maximum of 100 people
- Gathering limits will continue to be subject to physical distancing requirements (2 metres)
- Any mask-wearing policy or by-laws (including in Ottawa and Toronto) will continue to apply.
Keep in mind that social circles (or “social bubbles”) continue to be limited to 10. This is relevant to condos as these “bubbles” are difficult to maintain in a condo setting where there may be close proximity and social interactions between dwellers (think of elevator rides, think of some amenities being reopened). One thing is for single home dwellers to pick 10 people they will closely interact with. It’s a far more difficult one if everyone of your condo residents will virtually bring into the mix their 10-people bubble. When you think about it, it’s like multiplying by 10 your condo community.
Continue risk for condos
Some high-risk places and activities remain closed.
For condos, these high risk activities include saunas, steam room, table games, water parks …..
What is interesting about this continued set of restrictions is that they are justified because of the “likelihood of large crowds congregating, difficulties with physical distancing or challenges maintaining the proper cleaning and sanitation required to prevent the spread of COVID-19“. This is exactly the principal concern many corporations have with respect to reopening amenities.
Rather than focusing the debate on “private vs. public spaces” or “commercial vs. residential spaces” corporations should focus on the type of activities, the risk of transmission and the close proximity between the residents/users, etc. Corporations should also pay close attention to all of the precautions that other “public providers/operators” have in place to limit the risk and transmission. Think of restaurants cleaning and disinfecting tables/chairs after each users. Think of plexiglass shields being installed throughout our cities. Think of cities implementing mask wearing policies. These precautions are as relevant in a condo setting as they are for these public spaces. A condominium setting (depending on its layout/size) is much closer to a public place than it is to a single dwelling bungalow in the suburbs.
Rather than try to find what makes condos different from public venues, focus on the precautions they follows and try to import and implement as many of them as possible.
Hot spots continue to surface. In Montreal, everyone who went to a bar (any bar) since July 1st is encouraged to get tested. All bar operators are strongly encourage to gather sufficient information to be able to trace their patrons. Some jurisdictions are forced to scale back their reopening. That should be a warning to condo corporations wishing to fast track their reopening.
The key is to continue to operate “with strict safety and operational requirements”. For condos, this may mean:
- Keeping some amenities closed;
- Cautiously reopening others;
- Implementing protocol to ensure the safety and health of all users;
- Implementing scheduling protocol and reducing the number of users at any given time;
- Adopting a mask wearing policy (with total requirement or partial requirement);
- Implementing cleaning and disinfecting protocols for those amenities you will open.
To mask or not to mask?
On the question of mask wearing, while there is (so far) no requirement imposing on condos the obligation to adopt mask wearing policies, the fact that an increasing number of municipalities are imposing covid mask-wearing in public spaces should be a signal to corporations. When you think about it, most interior common elements in condos are much closer to a public space than to the opposite.
Our survey shows that more than 60% of condo dwellers are of the view that masks should be made mandatory while on interior common elements. Yet, so far, only about 20% of condo corporations appear to have adopted such policies. (Share your views with us by taking our survey)
Condo corporations continue to have the ability (and obligation) to control, manage and administer common elements. When balancing inconvenience vs. benefits, the benefits of imposing masks while on indoor common elements far outweigh the inconvenience.