Details Regarding Ontario’s Move to Amended Step 3 of Roadmap to Reopen
Date: January 28, 2022
Effective January 31, 2022, all public health units in Ontario will move to the Rules for Areas at Step 3 (Step 3 Rules) of the province’s Roadmap to Reopen plan. The Step 3 Rules are set out in O. Reg. 364/20, made under the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020, as amended by O. Reg. 25/22.
We note at the outset that a number of the existing restrictions under the modified Step 2 Rules (Step 2 Rules) will remain in place (e.g. masking and distancing requirements). However, the amended Step 3 Rules loosen some key restrictions and allow a wider range of indoor businesses and activities to once again open.
We review some of the key changes in this FTR Now, but readers should consult the full text of O. Reg. 364/20 to review the complete list of restrictions and to better determine how the changes impact your organization.
Rules for Areas in Step 3
A significant change from the Step 2 Rules is that the Step 3 Rules do not require businesses or organizations to ensure that any person who performs work for them to conduct their work remotely if the nature of their work does not require them to be on site. Employers may now plan to return their employees to the workplace, depending on their operational needs.
Vaccination Policy and Proof of Vaccination
As with the Step 2 Rules, businesses and organizations that are permitted to open under the Step 3 Rules must continue to comply with any requirements to establish, implement and ensure compliance with a COVID-19 vaccination policy. Such policies may be required under instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), under local medical officer of health recommendations or by government directive.
Specified businesses that are permitted to open must continue to apply the proof of vaccination rules, and require patrons to provide proof of identification and of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The provisions allowing some businesses to opt into the proof of vaccination rules will again apply at Step 3.
As with the Step 2 Rules, proof of vaccination is not required where a patron enters an indoor area solely to use a washroom, to access an outdoor area that can be accessed only through an indoor route, to make a retail purchase, and to place or pick up an order, among other things.
General Capacity Limits
The rule that an indoor business or facility that is open to the public must limit the number of members of the public so that they are able to maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the business or facility remains the same; however, the Step 3 Rules exempt a number of areas from this rule including meeting and event spaces, restaurants, sports and recreation facilities and casinos (i.e. primarily those businesses that are required to apply the proof of vaccination rules to patrons entering their facilities).
Businesses and facilities must continue to ensure that the total capacity does not exceed 50%. The Step 3 Rules have been amended so that this capacity limit also applies in instances where the business or place is used for a wedding, funeral or religious service, rite or ceremony.
Capacity limits continue to be calculated in accordance with Ontario Regulation 213/07 (Fire Code), made under the Fire Protection and Prevention Act, 1997.
All requirements in the Step 3 Rules for businesses and facilities to record the names and contact information of patrons and maintain records of this information have been revoked.
Restaurants, Bars and Other Establishments
Indoor dining, which was prohibited under the Step 2 Rules, may now open under the Step 3 Rules, subject to certain conditions. For example, patrons must be seated at all times (with exceptions), and no more than 10 people may be seated together at any table unless everyone seated at the table is a member of the same household, a member of up to one other household who lives alone, or a caregiver for any member of either household.
There are no longer any restrictions on operating hours and when the sale and service of liquor is permitted under the Step 3 Rules.
As under the Step 2 Rules, all retail businesses must operate at 50% capacity and must post a sign in a conspicuous location visible to the public that states the maximum capacity of the location.
Schools and Private Schools
The Step 3 Rules permit schools and private schools to open, subject to a number of conditions. This is unchanged from the Step 2 Rules.
Post-secondary institutions may remain open for in-person teaching and instruction. Certain conditions apply if the indoor instructional space is an Indigenous Institute prescribed for the purposes of section 6 of the Indigenous Institutes Act, 2017. Again, this is unchanged from the Step 2 Rules.
Other Businesses that Provide Teaching and Instruction
The Step 3 Rules permit businesses that provide in-person indoor teaching and instruction to open, subject to a number of conditions.
Sports and Recreational Fitness Activities
The Step 3 Rules permit facilities used for indoor sports and recreational fitness activities, as well as indoor recreational amenities such as gyms, to open at 50% capacity.
The total number of members of the public who are permitted to be in an indoor spectator area of the facility at any one time must not exceed 50% of the area’s usual seating capacity or 500 persons, whichever is less.
The Step 3 Rules now permit food and drink to be served to patrons in an indoor area of the facility. When consuming food or drink, spectators must remain seated.
Other changes in the Step 3 Rules for certain services include the following:
- Hotels, motels, lodges, cabins, cottages, short-term rentals, resorts or other shared rental accommodations, including student residences, may open any indoor fitness centres or other indoor recreational facilities that are part of their operations, subject to a number of conditions.
- Indoor concert venues, theatres and cinemas may open to spectators but capacity must not exceed 50% of the area’s usual seating capacity or 500 persons, whichever is less. Food and drink may be served to patrons in an indoor area of a concert venue, theatre or cinema. Patrons must be seated at all times while watching the concert, performance or film, or while consuming food or drink. The person responsible for the concert venue, theatre or cinema must actively screen patrons in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the CMOH before they enter the premises of the establishment.
- Indoor museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, science centres, landmarks, historic sites, botanical gardens and similar attractions may open, subject to a number of conditions. For example, the number of members of the public at an indoor seated event or activity within the attraction at any one time must not exceed 50% capacity for the event or activity.
- Casinos, bingo halls and other gaming establishments may open, provided they comply with a number of conditions. For example, while patrons may now be served food and drink, they must be seated at all times when consuming it.
- Indoor horse racing tracks, car racing tracks and other similar venues may open, subject to a number of conditions. For example, while patrons may now be served food and drink, they must be seated at all times when consuming it. In addition, the person responsible for the venue must actively screen patrons in accordance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of the Office of the CMOH before they enter the premises of the venue.
Camps for Children
Day and overnight camps for children may open at the Step 3 Rules, provided they operate in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines for COVID-19 produced by the Office of the CMOH.
Limits on social gatherings increase to 10 persons if the gathering is held indoors and 25 persons if it is held outdoors. Limits on indoor organized public events increase to 25. There are several requirements and exceptions that continue to apply.
Indoor and Outdoor Wedding, Funeral or Religious Service, Rite or Ceremony
Under the Step 3 Rules, the number of persons occupying any room in the building or structure while attending an indoor ceremony must not exceed 50% of the capacity of the particular room.
For an outdoor ceremony, the number of persons permitted to attend will be limited to the number that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in attendance.
In addition, a person responsible for an indoor location where a ceremony takes place may elect to require attendees to provide proof of identification and of being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in accordance with the rules. Even if such an election is made, physical distancing requirements will need to be maintained.
We remind readers that the transition from Step 2 to Step 3 will occur on January 31, 2022, so the current Step 2 Rules will remain in effect until that date. In addition, as the government announced, “in the absence of concerning trends in public health and health care indicators,” further easing of restrictions will follow in February and March of 2022.
For information about how these changes may impact your organization, please contact your regular Hicks Morley lawyer.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©