Ottawa Public Health Issues Letter Strongly Encouraging Masks or Face Coverings on the Common Spaces and Shared Amenities of Residential Buildings and Condominiums

We previously blogged about the City of Toronto’s temporary by-law making masks and face coverings mandatory within the common areas of apartments and condominiums, and advised that other municipalities may soon follow suit.

Ottawa Public Health, in a similar vein and attempting to reduce COVID-19 transmissions, has today issued a letter strongly encouraging residential building management, owners, landlords and condominium corporations to adopt a policy that requires all individuals entering or remaining within the building’s common spaces and shared amenities to wear a mask or a face covering (in a manner that covers the nose, mouth, and chin).

The policy (to be adopted by building management or the condominium corporation) would be in effect throughout all common spaces and shared amenities, which include but is not limited to:

  • Entrances
  • Lobbies
  • Elevators
  • Gyms; and
  • Laundry rooms

This recent measure from Ottawa Public Health follows the temporary by-law adopted by the City of Ottawa on July 15, 2020 requiring masks or other face coverings to be worn within all enclosed public spaces. It’s interesting to note, however, that the by-law’s definition of “Enclosed Public Space” does not explicitly include apartment buildings or condominium buildings (although the by-law mentions that “Enclosed Public Space” encompasses the interior area of any building or structure to which the public is invited or permitted access in order to receive or to provide goods or services).

Under the new (August 6, 2020) directive from Ottawa Public Health, certain categories of people would be exempted from the requirement to wear a mask or a face covering on the common spaces and shared amenities of residential buildings and condominiums, including:

  • Children under two years of age, or children under five years of age either chronologically or developmentally who refuse to wear a mask and cannot be persuaded to do so by their caregiver;
  • Individuals with medical conditions that render them unable to safely wear a mask, including breathing difficulties or cognitive difficulties;
  • Individuals who are unable to put on or to remove a mask without assistance, including those who are accommodated under Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) or protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code; and
  • A person who is either employed by or is an agent of the Operator of an Enclosed Public Space, and is either (a) on an area of the premises that is not designated for public access or (b) within or behind a physical barrier (g. Plexiglass).

Moreover, individuals practicing certain activities within the common areas or shared amenities, such as swimming or actively exercising, would also benefit from a temporary exemption from a wearing a mask or a face covering while practicing these activities.

Following the recent letter from Ottawa Public Health, condominium corporations and Boards should, at the very least, seriously consider adopting a policy that makes masks or face coverings mandatory on the building’s common elements and shared amenities (in addition to a COVID-19 protocol implementing guidelines on elements such as physical distancing on the common elements, hand hygiene, etc.)