Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
On July 30, 21, Ontario filed O. Reg. 541/21 (Regulation), which adds a new “Roadmap Exit Step” to the Rules for Areas at Step 3 of its Roadmap to Reopen (Roadmap). It is important to note that Ontario currently remains at Step 3 and is not at the Roadmap Exit Step at this time.
When does the Roadmap foresee an exit from Step 3?
Step 3 commenced on July 16, 2021. The Roadmap provides that Ontario will remain in Step 3 for at least 21 days and until 80% of the eligible population age 12 and over has received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 75% have received their second dose, with no public health unit having less than 70% of their eligible population age 12 and over fully vaccinated. Other key public health and healthcare indicators must also continue to remain stable. At this time, it is unknown when Ontario will enter the Roadmap Exit Step.
What restrictions will be eliminated at the Roadmap Exit Step?
Although there will be some exceptions, when Ontario enters the Roadmap Exit Step, most rules and restrictions put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic will be eliminated, including, for example, most sector-specific rules, capacity limits, attendance limits for organized events and social gatherings, and the requirement to actively screen workers.
What restrictions will exist in the Roadmap Exit Step?
Business and organizations will be permitted to open during the Roadmap Exit Step, subject to the following restrictions:
- Masks: Subject to the exceptions currently in effect, masks or face coverings will continue to be required in an indoor area of a business’ or organization’s premises. When a person temporarily removes the mask or face covering to eat or drink, they must be separated from other persons by a distance of at least two metres or plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): A person will be required to wear appropriate PPE that provides protection to their eyes, nose and mouth if, in the course of providing services in an indoor area of a business’ or organization’s premises, they are required to come within two metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering that covers their mouth, nose and chin, and they are not separated from them by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.
- Safety Plan: No later than seven days after the requirement first applies, businesses and organizations will be required to prepare, post, and make available a written safety plan describing the measures that have been or will be implemented to reduce the transmission risk of COVID-19. Notably, at the Roadmap Exit Step, there is no longer a requirement that the safety plan refer to plans for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects, or crowd control.
- Operation in Compliance with Applicable Laws: Businesses and organizations must operate in accordance with all applicable laws, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its Regulations.
- Operation in Compliance with Advice, Recommendations and Instructions of Public Health Officials (Physical Distancing, Cleaning or Disinfecting): Businesses and organizations must operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions of public health officials, including with respect to physical distancing, cleaning or disinfecting.
- Operation in Compliance with Advice, Recommendations and Instructions of Office of Chief Medical Officer of Health or Another Public Health Official (Screening): Businesses and organizations must operate in compliance with the advice, recommendations and instructions issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, or another public health official, on screening individuals by, among other things, posting signs at all entrances to the business’ or organization’s premises, in a conspicuous location visible to the public, that inform individuals how to screen themselves for COVID-19 prior to entering the premises. Notably, this is a departure from the requirement to actively screen those who work at a business or organization before they enter the premises.
- Names and Contact Information: The requirement to record names and contact information, maintain those records, and disclosure them to medical officers of health or inspectors under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, will continue to apply.
Rules Specific to Cannabis Retail Stores, Day Camps, Overnight Camps, and Schools
The Roadmap Exit Step contains specific rules for cannabis retail stores, children’s camps, and schools:
- Authorized retail cannabis stores may open if they provide products to patrons through in-person sales or through an alternative method of sale (e.g., curbside pick-up or delivery);
- Day camps and overnight camps may open if they operate in a manner consistent with the safety guidelines for COVID-19 for such camps produced by the Office of the Chief Medical officer of Health; and
- Schools and private schools within the meaning of the Education Act may open if they operate in accordance with a return to school direction issued by the Ministry of Education and approved by the Office of the Chief Medical officer of Health. This condition does not apply to a school operated by First Nations.1
Bottom Line for Employers
Although it is helpful for employers in Ontario to have an understanding of the restrictions that will remain in place when the province exits Step 3 of its Reopening Plan and enters the Roadmap Exit Step, they must note that Ontario currently remains at Step 3, and it is unknown at this time when it will enter the Roadmap Exit Step.
Furthermore, as we have seen over the last 18 months since the COVID-19 pandemic began, its evolution is unpredictable. The rapid spread of the highly contagious Delta variant leaves us uncertain about how the future might unfold and opens the possibility that Ontario may deem it necessary to modify the Roadmap Exit Step before it is entered. We will follow any developments that may occur and provide an update should it be appropriate.
1 Furthermore, a person who holds a study permit issued under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act (Canada) and entered Canada on or after November 17, 2020, is also subject to certain conditions.