Re-Opening Considerations as the Province Loosens Restrictions
Our blog, posted on February 16, 2021, discussed the lifting of the Stay-at-Home Order and return to the colour-coded framework of restrictions to control the pandemic. Since then, we have received enquiries about the re-opening of amenities and steps that condominium corporations should be taking in light of the loosening of restrictions. We tackle some of those questions below. In addition, we address the recent email from Public Health to condominium corporations respecting “Updated guidance Re: Fitness Rooms, Pools & Recreational Amenities in Multi-unit Dwellings”
Public Health Guidance
Ottawa Public Health (“OPH”) has sent out an email to Condominium Owners / Operators to provide further guidance on fitness rooms, pools and recreational amenities in multi-unit dwellings. This email confirms that the current regulations do not prohibit the operation of these amenities in condominiums. However, OPH is recommending that condominiums align with the recommendations of the province with respect to public facilities. What does this mean?
- If there is a requirement in place from the province requiring the closure of public sport and recreation facilities, condominium corporations should also close those amenities.
- Once public sport and recreation facilities re-open, condominium corporations should only open if they are able to implement COVID-19 prevention measures, including ensuring that patrons can maintain a distance of 3 metres while exercising. [Note: As we have confirmed in previous blogs, it is our view that condominium corporations are not required to re-open amenities at the same time as public facilities. Each condominium corporation should make a determination based on the resources and needs of their community and the condominium corporation’s ability to implement public health protocols to ensure the safety and security of residents.]
- OPH has created guidelines for operators of fitness, recreation and sports facilities. These guidelines can be found here. Furthermore, there is a library of signage that can be reviewed to print the necessary signage if the condominium corporation is considering opening facilities.
For condominiums that have decided to work towards re-opening amenities, here are some considerations.
Is the condominium required to have a City inspection before opening the pool?
Subsection 5(3) of Regulation 565 respecting public pools (made under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, 1990) mentions that, where the closure of a public pool has lasted for more than four weeks, the owner or operator of the pool is required to notify public health authorities (a medical officer of health or public health inspector) in writing at least 14 days before reopening the pool. Note that this generally applies to pools operated by condominiums. The notification must include:
- The date on which the pool is to be reopened.
- The name and address of the operator.
- Whether the pool is operated as a Class A or a Class B pool.
Under subsection 2(2) of the Regulation, a pool that is operated in conjunction with a condominium property that contains six or more dwelling units is considered a Class B pool.
Accordingly, Ottawa Public Health has advised that a written notification to the Medical Officer of Health is required two weeks prior the proposed reopening of the pool.
Does the condominium need to implement a safety plan before amenities can reopen?
We would recommend that condominium corporations implement a safety plan for their community, especially if the condominium has employees. A good resource for developing the plan can be found here. While this was, in our view, a requirement during lockdown for condominiums with employees, it is not clear that there is a strict obligation for a safety plan at this time. Having said that, a safety plan is a helpful tool for condominium corporations to have in place, especially if the condominium has employees.
Permitting access to amenities… what is the best way? Should we create an online booking system? Should we use a sign-in sheet? Would the records from the fob system be sufficient?
OPH guidelines include the following restrictions that would be applicable to condos:
- Maximum 50 people per facility, 10 people per class [Note: Most condominiums would have a much lower capacity based on the size of the room and the requirement to maintain a 3 metre distance.]
- Limit duration of stay (90 minutes at a time unless engaged in a sport)
- No spectators permitted (exemption for parent/guardian supervision of children)
- Face coverings required except when exercising
- Increase spacing between patrons to 3 m for areas of a sport or recreational facility where there are weights/weight machines and exercise/fitness classes
- Require contact information for every member of the public who enters facility
- Require appointments for entry;
Based on the guidelines above, Ottawa condominiums must implement an appointment system and should have a sign-in sheet to obtain information of all patrons.
Why both? The appointment system will ensure that occupancy limitations are respected. The appointment system could set out the Covid-19 screening and require owners to make a confirmation in order to confirm the appointment.
The sign-in system will ensure that everyone that enters the facility is recorded. Although the appointment system will track bookings, it is best to keep track of each person that enters and have them confirm that their answers to the screening still apply before they use the amenity. Online bookings may occur a few days in advance, so it is helpful to have residents confirm they meet the Covid screening requirements at the time the resident enters the amenity.
Fob systems are helpful to track entry. However, it does not provide the ability to confirm that the Covid-19 screening has been done. Also, fobs can be used by more than one person in a unit, as a result, it is better to have a sign-in sheet in place.
A Word of Caution
Even though restrictions are loosening, condominium communities need to remain vigilant. The recent news story about an outbreak in a Peel condominium corporation serves as a reminder for just that. This condominium had five reported cases of a COVID-19 variant. As of the time of posting this blog, health officials had not found a link between cases and there is a concern that there was community spread through the common elements. As a result, Public Health completed door-to-door testing within the condominium corporation of over 500 people. The results of the testing has not yet been disclosed.
We will continue to keep you updated on these important measures (and their impact on condominiums)!