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Condo Pools (and Libraries) Under Ontario’s Modified Stage 2

Last Friday, Ontario rolled Toronto, Ottawa and Peel back to a modified Stage 2 set of restrictions. We blogged about this already. Earlier this week, we blogged on the impact this had on condo gyms and fitness rooms. We promised you a follow up blog post on condo pools.  Here it is.

Keep in mind that, at the time of publication, this modified Stage 2 restrictions only apply to Toronto, Ontario and Peel Health Units.

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Steam rooms, saunas and hot tubs

Let’s start with the easy part.

Steam  rooms, saunas, whirlpools, hot tubs and bathhouses must remain closed under Ontario’s modified Stage 2 restrictions.

Pools and splash pads

There are perhaps better news on the pool front. I say “perhaps” because the situation is not as clear as I would have liked it to be.

Prior version of the regulation

The prior version of O.Reg 263/20 (as modified by O.Reg 527/20) regulation expressly provided that indoor and outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads and wading pools were allowed to be opened under certain conditions (such as no access to high-contact features such as slides and diving boards and provided that the pool operated at reduced capacity and by timed entries or appointment only).

Current regulation

That section is revoked entirely and is now replaced by a much shorter section, which forces the closure of steam rooms, saunas and bathhouses (as stated above).

This modified section 19 does not readily provide much guidance on whether pools can be opened. Naturally the remaining question pertains to indoor pools only as our Ontario approaching winter indefinitely postponed the debate over outdoor pools.

Still, despite the lack of express language providing so, we conclude that pools can open under certain conditions.

We reach that conclusion based on the fact that the regulation allows for locker room, change room or showers which are used in conjunction with a pool, splash pad, spray pad or wading pool. Many other restrictions in the regulation also clearly carve out an exception for pools, splash pad, etc.

This, in our view, indicates that they can remain open but the person responsible for the operation of the pool must ensure that:

  • any washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition; and
  • any equipment that is rented to, provided to or provided for the use must be cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.

It is unclear what gathering restrictions apply to the pool and pool deck area (other than, or in addition to, those who otherwise already apply to your facility). What is clear is that the restrictions applicable to sports and recreational fitness activities (see our blog of earlier this week) do not apply to pools (etc.). Certainly, the 2 metre distance continue to apply.

Pool procedures and precautions

If you are going to open your pools, we would recommend that caution be exercised and that you consider:

  • Restricting its use to residents only (no visitors);
  • Screening your users (by asking them to complete a COVID-questionnaire prior to entering the pool area);
  • Restricting and controlling the use of the pool through scheduling and preferably an online booking App;
  • Keeping track of who used the pool and when, for tracing purposes;
  • Reducing the number of user to 10 or less (using the interior gathering limits);
  • Not allowing classes or group activities;
  • Not allowing the use of high touch features such as slides, diving boards, noodles or other flotation devices (except those required for safety purposes); and,
  • Not providing floatation items to users (like noodles, etc.) and removing furniture. Instead, you should require that users bring their own.

Last August, Ottawa’s Public Health Office had issue a set of guidelines. While these pertained to Stage 3 (where Ottawa was at the time) consider following these guidelines (at least until new ones are issued to reflect the modified Stage 2 guidelines).

Libraries

I write this section with a couple of clients in mind, who were forced to close their condo libraries earlier this year.

Under the new modified Stage 2 guidelines, libraries may open if circulating materials that are returned or accessed within the library are disinfected or quarantined for an appropriate period of time before they are recirculated.

While it’s fairly easy to set up a system where returned items are quarantined (in a drop box, for instance), it is far more difficult (near impossible) to control the material that is being accessed. Any book that is touched, perused and returned to a shelf would have to also be quarantined or disinfected.  This is hardly practical.

It’s probably best to keep your library closed for now.