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Ontario lifting (most) COVID measures on Monday: what it means for condos

On March 9, 2022, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health announced the lifting of many of the remaining COVID measures, including those pertaining to masks in most settings and proof of vaccination requirements.  The regulation implementing these changes was published on March 14, which allows us to see what this will mean for condos.

Overview

Measures being lifted

Subject to instructions, advice or recommendations from your local Public Health Authorities:

  • Masks will no longer be mandated while on interior common elements;
  • COVID screening notices will no longer be mandated to be posted at entrances of your condo;
  • Capacity limits (both indoors and outdoors) will be lifted;
  • The general 2-metre distancing requirement is being lifted – but (again) keep an eye out for instructions/recommendations From the Chief Medical officer of health and your local public health authority;
  • Safety Plans will no longer be required;
  • Rules applicable to meeting and events spaces as well as conference spaces are being lifted;
  • The general requirement to clean and disinfect areas and equipment as is necessary to maintain a sanitary condition is also being lifted (?!) – at least as we understood it to apply under COVID requirements. Condos continue to have an expressed obligation to abide by public health advice, recommendations and instructions on cleaning and disinfecting.

Measures remaining in place

  • Condos will continue to have to operate in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act;
  • Condos will continue to have to comply with any advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Chief Medical Officer of health including on:
    • physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting;
    • establishing, implementing and ensuring compliance with vaccination policies (to the extend these apply).

It is important to keep in mind the following:

  • As always, in their ongoing duty to manage, control and administer the common elements and as the occupiers of the common elements, condo corporations can continue to apply more restrictive COVID measures. Having said that, some of these measures may become increasingly difficult to justify to the owners in the context of the province lifting most measures;
  • Keep an eye on instructions from the provincial Chief medical officer and on your local Public Health Authorities.

Effective date

The above will be effective on March 21, 2022.

For those wishing to get a little more info, please read on.

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Details on measures

The mechanics of how Ontario is lifting certain measures and keeping others in place is interesting (at least for legal geeks).

Ontario is actually revoking all Step-1, Step-2 and Step-3 regulations. Until now, the province was simply moving the province from one Step to another, keeping in the books the measures that no longer applied (in case we had to go back).  The province has now revoked the other Steps. Perhaps sending a (wishful) signal that we will no longer need these measures.

All this to say that, come March 21, only the Roadmap Exit Step will remain in force.  This also means that most industry/business specific measures are being lifted.

Masks

Masks are no longer strictly mandated on indoor common elements. Naturally, condo corporations can continue to require/encourage mask wearing and, obviously, individuals can continue to wear masks.

Strict mask requirement are lifted in nearly all settings. Masks will only be mandated in public transit, certain health related settings (such as hospitals, Long Term Care, some clinics, retirement homes), in the context of the provision of certain social services (including mental health support, shelters, refuges…) and in congregate care supportive housing residences where the residents share facilities for living, dining, sleeping or bathing. In these settings, the usual health and age related exemptions will continue to apply.

Having said that, keep an eye on any Public Health recommendations as condos must follow these recommendations.

  • Ottawa: On March 30, Dr.  V. Etches has issued a Special statement “highly recommending” that individuals continue wearing masks indoors especially when physical distancing may not be possible or prove to be challenging in crowded areas.
  • Peel: Peel Public Health is following provincial guidance on mask wearing (or lack thereof) but they emphasise that business and other settings may choose to continue requiring patrons and employees to wear a mask.
  • Toronto: As of March 21, Toronto’s Public Health has indicated that they were following provincial guidelines and that, as such, masks were no longer mandated in the city’s facilities.

Naturally, the above is subject to change and, at the risk of repeating the obvious, corporations have the authority to mandate and require mask wearing while on interior common elements.  The decision of whether it makes sense to require it is a condo-specific one.

Public events and gatherings

All gathering limits (indoor and outdoors) are being lifted.

The general 2-metre distancing requirement is also lifted but (and it may seem a little contradictory)  this minimum distancing has to be maintained if instructed by Public Health Officials. So keep an eye on your local public health authority.

It is important to note that, while the province is lifting gathering limits, not everyone may be 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. Alternatively, you may want to consider holding hybrid AGMs to accommodate those who are comfortable meeting in person and those who are not.

Ultimately, the decision of how to hold your AGM rests with the board.

Similarly, for board meetings, many directors (and managers) will prefer to continue to hold their board meetings virtually.

Keep in mind that the province has extended until the end of September 2022 the period during which you can hold your owners meeting virtually and vote electronically, even if you do not have a by-law permitting it.  During this same period, condo corporations can continue to send notices of meetings electronically even to owners who have not  expressly entered into an agreement to this effect with the corporation.   You can read more about it here.

Screening at entrance

Condos are no longer required to post notices at their entrance advising individuals on how to COVID-screen prior to entering the building.  Similarly, condos are no longer required to actively screen workers (unless recommended by a public health authority).

Having said this, in many cases it makes sense to keep your screening notices at entrances (there is really no down side) and it may make 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.

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 mandated;
  • Condos are also no longer mandated to record user’s tracing information (such as the name and contact information);
  • Users are no longer mandated to book their spot in advance (walk-ins are permitted).

The decision to reopen these rests, ultimately, with the board.  If you chose to open your amenities, while the above measures are no longer strictly mandated, it may be a good idea to maintain some of them if you already have in place a systems to do.  For instance, 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.  At the end of this blog post, we list a couple of measures that you may want to consider keeping.

Washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms

All COVID measures applicable to washrooms, locker rooms and change rooms or similar amenities have been lifted.  The decision to reopen these rests, ultimately, with the board.

Short-term accommodations – guest suites

Short-term accommodations can operate, subject to the rules and regulations applicable to your municipality or condo corporation.

Elevators

The Reopening Ontario Act does not regulate the number of users permitted to ride in an elevator.  Keep an eye out for instructions/directives by your local Health Authority.  Some corporations may opt to continue to require (or encourage) reduced capacity.

Vaccination

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. It is interesting to note that certain vaccination provisions in the regulation are maintained.

The landscape is rapidly changing on the vaccination front. It is best to consult with your favourite condo lawyer to ensure you comply with what is required.

COVID Safety plan

Safety plans are no longer required. Having said that, if you already have a safety plan that works for you, there is nothing wrong with keeping it in place or amending it.

Remote working

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.

Cleaning disinfecting

Condos are no longer mandated to keep the same COVID-level of cleaning and disinfecting but condo corporations continue to have an express obligation to abide by public health advice, recommendations and instructions on cleaning and disinfecting.  In any event, at the risk of stating the obvious, hygiene and sanitation have been a central component of public health in modern society. We are not returning to the pre-bubonic plague middle ages.  Keep cleaning and disinfecting as required.

Additional measures

Some Public Health Units may have region-specific measures/recommendations.  You should also keep an eye out for those.

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, and cleaning or disinfecting.  Entities required to adopt vaccination policies will be required to continue to abide by them.

Finally, keep in mind that the fact that the province is lifting many of the COVID measures (in this electoral year) does not mean that you have to.  Condo corporations continue to have a duty to control, manage and administer common elements. Moreover, as occupiers of the common elements, they continue to have to take reasonable steps to ensure the reasonable safety of those on the premises.

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.

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You can review the Regulation applicable to the Roadmap Exit step adopted under the Reopening Ontario Act. The relevant schedules are Schedules 1 and 4.

We have updated our COVID Tool.

 

Updated on March 30/2022

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