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New measures applicable to Modified Step-3

On February 14, 2022, Ontario announced the easing of some public health measures currently in place under Step-3. These new modified measures are coming into effect on February 17, 2022. At the request of many of you, we summarize here all of the condo-relevant measures. Keep in mind that condos can adopt more prudent measures.

Public events and social gatherings

Social gathering must be limited to:

  • 50 people indoors
  • 100 people outdoors

Organized public events will be capped at 50 people if held indoors.  There are no general limits to organized public events held outdoors.

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

These limits apply even if the gathering or event is held in a private dwelling or a condo building. There are exceptions for people from the same household (or a household and someone who lives alone).

It is important to note that, while the province is increasing the gathering limits, not everyone is quite ready yet to pile up in a meeting room for your AGMs. For the time being, we continue to recommend that you hold your owners meetings virtually. Similarly, many directors (and managers) will prefer to continue to hold their board meetings virtually.

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. A person entitled to the usual exception does not have to present evidence that they are entitled to such an exception. This expressly applies to indoor common elements of dwellings (such as condos) unless the corporation is able to ensure that a 2-metre distance is maintained. Masks are also required at organized indoor public events.

There may be limits to someone’s right not to wear a mask while on indoor common elements . Some courts have limited the right not to wear a mask to the essential transit route to and from a unit by the most direct route. There may be other circumstances where the corporation may require mask wearing to use  non-essential amenities, in which case the standard Human Rights accommodation process may apply. This is a difficult balancing act. You should consult with your favourite condo lawyer.

Corporations are well advised to adopt a mask policy to apply to anyone on interior common elements. You can read more on mask policies here.

Screening

Condos should post signs at all entrances informing individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering.  They must also 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.

Recreational sports and fitness amenities

Sports and recreational fitness amenities will no longer be limited to operate at 50% capacity (but any spectator area will continue to have this 50% capacity limit).

The following measures will continue to apply to sports and recreational fitness amenities:

  • Participants must be actively screened for COVID;
  • Tracing information (name and contact information) is no longer required to be recorded.  Having said that, if you already have in place a platform or booking app, why not continue to record this information in case it becomes needed for tracing purposes;
  • There no longer is a requirement for users to book their spot in advance, which indicates that walk-ins are now permitted.  Still, you may want to continue to require their users to book their spots ahead of time.  That is the easiest way to ensure compliance with all public health measures, COVID screening and data collection for tracing purposes;
  • Many additional rules apply to ‘spectators’ including the requirement to wear a mask.  The way we read this, your users should wear a mask unless they are exercising (or unless they fall within one of the usual mask exceptions).

As will be noted further below, the corporation is responsible to clean and disinfect any equipment it makes available to its users, as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition. Corporations are well advised to continue to clean these regularly throughout the day – in addition to encouraging users to clean them before and after each use.

Pools

Condos can open their indoor or outdoor pools, splash pads, spray pads, wading pools and slides. There no longer is a prohibition against steam rooms and saunas.

If you open your water facilities, you must abide by the rules listed above under the recreational sports and fitness amenities. See above section.

Recreational amenities

Indoor and outdoor multi-purpose facilities and recreational amenities are no longer limited to operate at 50% capacity. The indoor limit is now that permitting those present to keep a 2-metre distance from each other. Having said that, the 50-people indoor gathering limits applicable to social gathering or to organized public events would still apply.

For indoor recreational amenities, all other measures applicable to sports and recreational fitness amenities will continue to apply.

In our view, the requirement to wear a mask while on indoor recreational amenities continue to apply unless the corporation is able to ensure that a 2-metre distance is maintained.

Washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms

Step 3 no longer prohibits the use of common washrooms, locker rooms, change rooms, showers or similar amenities.  These can (but do not have to) open.  If you are going to reopen these amenities, you must ensure that they are cleaned and disinfected as frequently as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition.

Still, corporations can opt to keep these closed and encourage instead the users of these amenities to change and shower in their units prior to using your pools/fitness rooms, etc.  It is a decision to be taken at the board level, which often turns on the resources available to keep these rooms adequately cleaned and disinfected.

Additional measures and protocols for your amenities

If you are going to open your amenities (such as fitness room, pool, recreational amenities, etc.), in addition to the minimum mandated measures listed above, we recommend that you also consider implementing additional measures, which could include:

  • Limit the use of the amenities to residents – no visitors;
  • Have the users book their spot in advance (preferably through a booking app) – so no walk ins;
  • Collect and keep tracing information (such as the name and coordinates of the users);
  • Screen the users for COVID symptoms.  This is easily done with a booking app or booking system;
  • Remove (or minimize) furniture or equipment available for use;
  • Do not provide any items to be shared by users, or reduce these to the strict minimum.  Think of requiring users to instead bring their own furniture; equipment; pool noodles and other floatation devices; tools; cooking appliances, pool cues, raquets…);
  • Consider posting signs (and possibly floor markers) to direct traffic and remind users of social distancing;
  • Adapting the layout and access to these facilities in compliance with regulation and other public health guidance;
  • Consider providing alcohol-based disinfectant by the entrances and disinfecting wipes;
  • Consider adding air filtering devices;
  • Increasing cleaning and disinfecting.  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.

Short-term accommodations – guest suites

Short-term accommodations can proceed and are no longer limited to situations where the user is in need for accommodations. We are of the view that the above also apply to guest suites.

Keep in mind that your municipality or condo corporation may have restrictions on what short-term rentals can take place in your complex.

Elevators

The Reopening Ontario Act does not regulate the number of users permitted to ride in an elevator – other than requiring those on interior common elements to wear a mask if they come within less than 2 metres of one another.

Having said this, the public health department of many municipalities continue to recommend that elevator capacity be reduced to a number allowing riders to keep a 2-m distance. If such a recommendation exists in your public health region, the condo must continue to abide by it. By way of example, both the Ottawa and Toronto Public Health Departments continue to recommend that elevator capacity be reduced to allow riders to keep a 2-m distance between them.

Vaccination

Certain business and organizations (including indoor sports and recreational fitness and  other recreational amenities) are required to obtain from each “patron” adequate proof of vaccination. While the term “patron” is not define, the existing consensus amongst condo lawyers is that this requirement does not apply to condos (as occupants are not patrons).

However, condos must comply with Public Health advice, recommendations and instructions as they apply to the adoption of vaccination policies where applicable.  For the most part, this requires adopting a vaccination policy if you have employees or staff at the corporation.

Having stated the above, condo corporations can adopt vaccination policies requiring their dwellers to provide proof of vaccination to access some of their non-essential amenities.  In our view, those having adopted vaccination policies may be able to continue to enforce them beyond the announced March 1st date at which the Province expects to lift the proof of vaccination requirement.

You can read more about vaccination in condos here.

Safety plan

Safety plan are required for :

  • Recreational fitness facilities (only if organized sports take place);
  • Recreational amenities and multi-purpose amenities.

A Safety Plan should describe how the requirements under the regulation will be implemented, including by screening, physical distancing, masks or face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and objects, the wearing of protective equipment and crowd controls.

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

Remote working

The regulation appears to have removed the strict requirement for remote working (this does not necessarily apply across the board to all industries) but it does require staff and employees to wear a mask.

Naturally, if working remotely is feasible, it should continue to be encouraged.

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, locker rooms, change rooms, elevators, high touch areas, mircom dial pads, gym equipment, etc.

Additional measures

Some Public Health Units may have region-specific measures/recommendations.  You should also keep an eye out for those. Also keep in mind that the information below presents the minimum requirements.

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.

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

Finally, keep in mind that the above provincial measures are the minimal requirement. Regional Public Health departments can issue additional recommendations and directives.  So keep an eye out for these as well.

Let’s not forget that Step 3 is not “back to normal”. It is a step toward it.  We’re still not entirely out of the woods.

You can review the Step-3 Regulations adopted under the Reopening Ontario Act.

We have updated our COVID Tool.

Feb 17, 2021, at 5:30pm

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