On March 1st, Ontario will move all of its 34 Public Health Units out of Step-3 measures and onto the Roadmap Exit Step. In this post, we explore what this means for Condo Land and what measures must be maintained after tomorrow.
The Roadmap Exit Step lifts most public health measures such as gathering limits, measures applicable to specific businesses, mandatory proof of vaccination, and the requirement to actively screen workers. Only a small number of measures continue to remain in place, such as:
- the requirement to wear a mask in most indoor settings;
- the requirement to post notices at the entrances informing individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19;
- the obligation to continue to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act; and
- the obligation to follow recommendations of public health officials, including with respect to physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting.
Below are the condo-relevant restrictions which will continue to apply. Please note that your local public health authorities may recommend additional measures. As such, it is important to keep an eye out for them.
Masks covering one’s nose, mouth and chin are still required in all interior common areas, with the usual exceptions related to age, medical conditions, health and disability. A person entitled to these exemptions does not have to present evidence that they are so entitled. This masking requirement 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. In our view, 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 such a right 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/maintain a mask policy to apply to anyone on interior common elements. You can read more on mask policies here.
Public events and gatherings
All gathering limits applicable to organized public events or social gatherings (indoors and outdoors) are being lifted.
It is important to note that, while the province is lifting 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 consider holding your owners meetings virtually. Similarly, many directors (and managers) will prefer to continue to hold their board meetings virtually.
Screening at entrance
Active screening for workers is no longer strictly required (unless recommended by a public health authority) but condos have to continue posting signs at all entrances of their premises informing individuals on how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering.
Having said this, in many cases it makes sense to continue screening your workers, contractors and trades for the time being – especially if you already have in place the systems to do so. 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.
Gyms, pools and other recreational amenities
Most measures applicable to condo fitness rooms, pools, saunas and steam rooms are being lifted:
- COVID-related capacity limits no longer apply;
- Mandatory screening is no longer strictly required;
- Condos are also no longer required to record user’s tracing information (such as the name and contact information);
- Users are no longer required to book their spot in advance (walk-ins are permitted).
Still, while the above measures are no longer strictly required, it may be a good idea to maintain some of them if you already have in place the systems to do. Many condo corporations will keep operating their gym at reduced capacity or continue to maintain advance booking and online screening. Each condo should adopt measures and protocols that work for them based on their layout, size, demographics, etc.
In our view, the requirement to wear a mask while using indoor recreational amenities (while not exercising) continue to apply unless the corporation is able to ensure that a 2-metre distance is maintained.
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.
Washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms
Other than mask wearing when applicable and other than the required cleaning/disinfecting, all other measures applicable to washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms or similar amenities have been lifted.
Still, corporations can opt to keep some of these closed and encourage their users 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, you may want to also consider implementing/maintaining 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;
- Consider not providing 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;
- Consider 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;
- Consider 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 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.
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 instructions exist in your public health region, the condo must continue to abide by them. 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.
While the requirement to verify vaccination status is being lifted across the board, condos (and other business/organizations) must continue to comply with Public Health advice, recommendations and instructions as they apply to the adoption of vaccination policies where applicable. For the most part, this may require you to adopt a vaccination policy if you have employees or staff at the corporation.
Having stated the above, some condo corporations may already have in place vaccination policies for the use of certain non-essential amenities. While corporations can likely continue to apply these, now that proof of vaccination has been lifted at the provincial level, it may become increasingly more difficult to justify them at the condo level.
There are rapidly changing requirements on this front. It is best to consult with your favourite condo lawyer to ensure you comply with what is required.
You can read more about vaccination in condos here.
Safety plan are only strictly required for certain businesses. As such, in our view, unless a business is being operated out of the condominium, safety plans are no longer strictly required. Having said that, if you already have a safety plan that works for you, there is nothing wrong with keeping it in force.
Safety plans describe how the requirements under the COVID regulation are being 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.
There is no longer a strict requirement for work to take place remotely. Having said that, many professionals have now learned to conduct much of their business remotely. We expect this to be the new way of doing business for many.
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.
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 and screening individuals. Entities required to adopt vaccination policies will be required to continue to abide by them.
Finally, 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.
Let’s not forget that the Roadmap Exit Step is not “back to normal”. It is a step toward it. We’re still not entirely out of the woods.
You can review the Regulation applicable to the Roadmap Exit step adopted under the Reopening Ontario Act. The relevant schedules are Schedules 4 and 5.
We have updated our COVID Tool.
Feb. 28, 2022