Stay-at-Home Order Lifted: Ottawa Returns to Orange Zone Today

In accordance with last week’s announcement from the provincial government, the Stay-at-Home Order (that was in effect since December 2020) has been lifted in most public health regions across Ontario as of today, and a transition to a revised COVID-19 Response Framework is expected. The Ottawa Public Health region is expected to move back into the “Orange – Restrict” zone as of today (February 16, 2021).

As a reminder, the Framework contains five “zones” that correspond to the level of restrictions imposed on gatherings, businesses, and facilities (among other things):

  • Green – Prevent
  • Yellow – Protect
  • Orange – Restrict
  • Red – Control
  • Grey – Lockdown

Moreover, the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington region is among 3 public health regions where the Stay-at-Home Order has been lifted since February 10, 2021, and which is now in the “Green – Prevent” zone.

What restrictions are in place?

The public health regions in the Green, Orange, and Yellow zones are regulated by Regulation 364/20 made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020. Some key restrictions that are in place in the “Orange – Restrict” zone (and that may be relevant for condominiums) are as follows:

  • Certain organized public events and social gatherings, such as parties/dinners/barbecues/meetings that are held at private residences (including condominiums), backyards or parks are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors.
  • Organized public events and gatherings that are held in staffed businesses and facilities (such as event centres, where the event is under the control of the facility staff) are limited to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors.
  • Fitness facilities can reopen at limited capacity (maximum 50 people in indoor areas with weights, exercise machines and in indoor classes – however, indoor fitness or exercise classes must take place in a separate room and may include a maximum of 10 people). There is a limit of 100 people for outdoor classes. In addition, fitness facilities must ensure appropriate social distancing between users (2 meters, except when engaging in a sport / 3 meters in areas with weights or exercise equipment), and ensure screening per instructions from the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Further, users may only be in the facility for 90 minutes at a time except when engaging in a sport, and face coverings are mandatory.
  • Personal care services (excepting steam rooms, saunas, and oxygen bars – which are required to be closed) can reopen with passive screening and a safety plan.

For a complete list of restrictions in the “Orange – Restrict” zone, please click here.

What does this mean for condos?

“Orange – Restrict” zone – includes the Ottawa Public Health Region

  • Reopening amenities: in our view, condos may consider reopening certain indoor amenities (e.g., gyms) as long as they can ensure proper social distancing between users (including the 3 meter rule for areas with weights and exercise equipment), regulate the usage time for the amenity, implement an effective screening and registration system, and ensure that proper sanitizing and disinfecting measures are followed. This, however, is a decision for the Board in each case. Other indoor amenities such as locker rooms, change rooms, showers (unless connected to a pool and provided they can be adequately sanitized), saunas and whirlpools should remain closed for now. Outdoor amenities may be reopened (again at the Board’s discretion) as long as users comply with the corresponding gathering limits and social distancing measures.
  • Renovations: as some of our readers may recall, only certain maintenance, repair and construction-related activities were permitted to continue under the “Lockdown Grey” zone (under Regulation 82/20). The permitted activities included maintenance, repair and property management activities related to the safety, security, sanitation and operation of properties; residential construction activities or projects; and construction activities that were commenced before January 12, 2021. HOWEVER: no such restrictions are mentioned for the “Orange Restrict” or the “Green – Prevent” zones under Regulation 364/20. Therefore, in our view, construction and renovation work may continue/resume in these zones (as long as the general COVID-19-related restrictions are complied with).
  • Masks and face coverings: there is no change in terms of the requirement to continue wearing masks or face coverings, and otherwise maintaining strong sanitizing on the common elements.

“Green – Prevent” zone –  includes Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health Region

The restrictions that are in place in the “Green – Prevent” zone are similar (but generally more permissive) than in the Orange zone.

Reopening amenities: Condos may consider reopening indoor amenities (including gyms) as long as gatherings limits are respected, physical distancing (of at least 2 meters) is maintained between users, an appropriate screening and registration system is put in place, and proper sanitizing and disinfecting measures are followed. Moreover, like in the Orange zone, steam rooms and saunas are required to remain closed. Again, the decision to reopen (or not to reopen) indoor amenities must be made by the Board while taking into account all relevant factors.

Renovations: (see section under the Orange zone above).

Masks and face coverings: as in the Orange zone, there is no change in terms of the requirement to continue wearing masks or face coverings, and otherwise maintaining strong sanitizing on the common elements.

Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments on condominium law!