Covid-19 in Condos - August 12, 2020
We did it again! We last wrote to you on July 10 - somehow I have managed to let a month elapse between messages! Where does the time go?
When we last wrote - we were still firmly settled into Phase 2…. I remember noting in my last post, that I somewhat dreaded the arrival of Phase 3.
Little did I know that Phase 3 would be announced the very next day and that without much advance notice, it would come into effect in Eastern Ontario on July 17th, exactly one week after our Blog post. Talk about prophesying! My trepidation about Phase 3 was not misguided by the way….
LEGISLATIVE CHANGES (Provincial)
On July 17th, the Province of Ontario authorized the reopening of nearly all business and public spaces, provided proper public health & workplace safety measures/restrictions were put in place, in a majority of the province (including the Ottawa region).
Despite the various new-found Phase 3 “liberties”, we all owe a world of gratitude to all those who continue to work towards limiting the spread of Covid-19 by modifying their schedules / lifestyles to practice self-isolation for medical or personal conviction reasons, and who continue to practice physical distancing when they are out and about in the “real world”.
Thank you also to everyone who has adopted the practice of wearing masks to protect those around them. Now, more than ever, it is so very important that we not let our guards down… that we continue to be mindful that this virus continues to circulate in our communities and that we each play an important role in helping to prevent the spread.
Self-isolation when sick, physical distancing when around others and wearing a mask while in public setting are the ”Responsibilities” which go hand-in-hand with the ”Liberties” we so anxiously awaited during Phases 1 and 2…
Shortly after the majority of the Province entered into Phase 3, on July 24th (and again without much advance notice), the provincial government adopted and proclaimed Bill 195 (dubbed the Reopening Ontario Act), which effectively put an end to the previously declared emergency period which had been in place since March 17th. All that said however, many of the Orders in council which existed previously under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act have simply been transferred to Bill 195 and therefore continue to be in effect across the Province. A recap of the Orders which are still effect can be found here.
By ending the previously declared emergency period, the Province of Ontario has also effectively put an end to the exceptions that had been implemented in the Condominium Act which allowed for the postponement of in-person AGMs until after the end of the declared emergency; the holding of E-meetings without a by-law; E-voting without a by-law; virtual board meetings, without unanimous consent of all directors, and electronic distribution of Notices without Owners having consented to to electronic distributions. The end of the emergency period has therefore also triggered the time clock for deadlines to hold AGMs which had previously been postponed and to pass By-Laws to allow for E-meetings and E-voting where Corporations wish to continue doing so after the 120 days grace period.
I am dreadfully sorry for the dry reading and technical details…. But tiresome as it all seems, these changes in legislation have had a significant impact on the Condominium industry.
Without exception, legal firms providing guidance to their condominium industry partners as well as Condominium Management Service Providers across the province have been working tirelessly over the last month to stay on top of a rapidly changing landscape, to understand and decipher the new requirements and to support Boards in their decision making processes. Most Boards on the other hand, have been working tirelessly to receive, process, understand and apply all of this new information to their own condominium communities.
Those of you who have accepted to represent and serve your communities by sitting on your condominium Boards are aware that the Province’s standard of care, as mandated by the Condominium Act, is quite high, and rightly so!! Without fail, Condominium Boards are expected to act in good faith and to act in a manner that is consistent with how a reasonably prudent person would, in similar circumstances. Fortunately however, Boards are also afforded the benefit of being able to rely on, and be assisted by industry professionals and the Act provides for Boards to be indemnified where they rely in good faith on reasonable professional advice.
As you can imagine, at the of best of times, obtaining / gathering professional advice, evaluating it and deciding Whether and how to best apply it is a long process. Where there is already strife in the community because Covid-overlaod or for a variety of other reasons, the process is even more complicated!
PUBLIC HEALTH / COVID TESTING (Municipal)
Both the Province and the City of Ottawa continue to urge anyone who may be exhibiting symptoms or who suspects they have been exposed to Covid-19 to attend a testing centre. A list of the City of Ottawa testing centres is included below. Before attending a testing centre they request that you begin by taking the self-assessment test: link here.
The list of covid testing centres in Ottawa is here.
Current details concerning the City of Ottawa’s ongoing response and recommendations concerning Covid are available here.
PHASE 3 (long exasperated sigh…)
With very few restrictions now, the Province allows almost everything to reopen (with a few exceptions in industries where the Province continues to feel there is significant risk of transmission). The Province also still actively encourages employers to allow employees to work remotely if and where that is possible.
In turn, condominium Ownerships are turning their attention to the long anticipated re-opening of condominium amenities.
“To be or not to be? - THAT is the question”. Seems to me, the Bard had it pretty easy…. Well - surprise - THAT is not the only quesion! In addition to Shakespeare’s existential conundrum, “To mask or not to mask?… To swim or not to swim?…” THOSE are the questions your Boards are faced with. And if so - HOW??
All kidding aside, the process of re-openings is still very much an exercise in evaluating / assessing risks and allocating reasonably available resources to mitigate (but unfortunately not to eliminate) these risks.
Across our portfolio, the majority of the Boards we collaborate with are putting the "finishing touches" on the Protocols for re-openings of their various amenities (where opening is permissible by legislation). Where the facilities are not already open - they are for the most part, imminently close to re-opening. Look for building-specific Notices from your Board for details about the facilitates in your own building :) Good news indeed! We all look forward to the day when all of our facilities are re-opened, without restrictions.
However, for the time being, Owners may expect to see new (reasonable) restrictions to accommodate staffing and cleaning schedules and to provide for user tracking, tracing and facility access control. In some cases you will find new procedures in place concerning the need for reservations and limits on the maximum number of users in facilities. You may also note modifications in hours of operation. In some cases you will even find that Boards are hopeful that Owners and Residents will work cooperatively to use facilities on a first-come-first-serve basis. In every case, users of amenities will be requested to provide their names and contact information to allow for easy contact tracing in the event of an outbreak associated to that particular facility.
ANXIETY ! (oh, my word!!)
While we certainly are all in this together, we don’t all have the same ability to accept and cope with challenges in the same way. In fact, most of us don’t even have the ability to accept and cope with things the same way, consistently from one day to the next. I certainly don't!!
In every instance, it helps to remember that what is right for others (at this particular instance) may not be right for you (at this particular instance)…. And what was right for them (or you) yesterday may no longer hold true tomorrow! Cutting each other a ton of slack, being considerate and respectful of each others needs and limitations and respecting each others’ boundaries are key.
Where new or pre-existing social anxiety exists, stick to your comfort zones and take “baby steps”, do only what is strictly necessary in public and retreat to the safety of your own home.
There is a lot of chatter around the phrase “It is OK not to be OK”. Certainly, when you are not “OK” the chatter certainly all sounds like a lot of ‘hype’… But please know: there are excellent resources and ideas about how to protect your mental health at this City of Ottawa website.
There is no easy “once-size-fits-all” solution to anxiety…. “YOU do YOU”. Find what works for YOU and please DO reach out. We ARE here…. Some of us a bit “banged up”, but we are still here - reach out!
FIRE SAFETY (yes… again….)
The leading of causes of high rise fires remain: unattended cooking and balcony fires. Please - we cannot urge you strongly enough:
Ensure your unit door, all amenity and stairwell doors should remain securely latched when not in us
Never leave pots unattended on the stove
Do not microwave textiles and masks
Do not overload electrical extension cords
Do not throw lit cigarette butts ever the balcony railing
Masks! Please do not microwave textiles to dry or disinfect them. This is especially true of masks with a metal nose clip
Hand Sanitizing Gel! Many of these products are alcohol based product and therefore easily ignited at high temperatures
In the event of fire alarms at your building, please follow the instructions from the Fire Plan which were distributed at various times over the years. If you require a copy of the instructions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most importantly, if you are required to evacuate the building, please remember to ensure that you practice proper physical distancing measures (6 feet apart at all times).
USUAL PARTING WORDS
Hats off to our fellow condo industry bloggers and to all of the Condominium Managers out there, who continue to navigate the turbulent waters - I assume you are all as tired as I am :)
At the risk of becoming a bore (i know... too late...), I will utter the words again… “It will be ok in the end - we will see them through this - together.” I enjoy reading your blogs - keep them coming…
I don’t think anyone will ever forget 2020. Personally, the events of the last several months are seared into my mind forever.
I will never forget the trust, respect and loyalty shown to us by our long-term industry partners, colleagues, friends and clients, nor the support, encouraging words, funny emails from the genuinely kind souls we meet as we go about the daily business of serving our communities.
We truly enjoy your feedback and appreciate the support we receive from each of you. Follow us on Twitter - we have a ton of fun! Energy is contagious - lets continue to keep the message positive - keep a sense of humour, seek out the company of lighthearted souls and to keep trying (If not succeeding) to see things from each other’s PERSPECTIVES.
It WILL be ok in the end - we will see each other through this - together.
J (the Den Mother)
DES Services Inc.
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