The announcement Tuesday that Ontario is under a renewed state of emergency and all Ontarians are now bound to stay-at-home orders has raised significant questions about what rules we all need to follow.
The Star asked for reader questions about the stay-at-home order. We’ve tried to answer them as best as possible — but at this point, some regulations remain up in the air. At a press conference Wednesday, Toronto’s fire chief Matthew Pegg said “the best information we have right now comes off a media release and a slide deck,” continuing they had not yet seen a draft of the regulations.
Leaving the home for essential purposes such as picking up food, groceries, essential goods, medications or visiting the doctor has always been allowed under provincial guidelines in the pandemic. That has not changed this time around.
Many submitted questions overlapped in theme, so we have generalized some common concerns below. This is what we know based on the protocols we are aware of Thursday at 6 p.m. ET.
Why can I shop curbside at non-essential businesses if we’re only allowed outside for essential reasons?
According to the ministry, the distinction between essential and non-essential retailers has not been made because many Ontarians — especially those in more remote communities — may have different needs than those residing in Toronto. Since not everyone has access to easy online shopping or a big-box retailer, curbside is available.
“What may be essential to someone in Timmins and how they buy that item may not be essential to someone in downtown Toronto, who can easily buy items online for delivery. The Government of Ontario determining what retailers may be considered essential risks cutting off many Ontarians who don’t live in Toronto or an urban centre from access to necessary goods,” a spokesperson for the ministry of health explained in an email to the Star.
Additionally, the spokesperson said they cannot determine what is an essential good for each person. “Legally defining what is essential risks cutting people off from goods that may legitimately be necessary for their health, well-being and safety,” the spokesperson wrote.
Does the new limited operating hours of non-essential retail stores include back-end tasks such as inventory, delivery, cleaning or accounting?
According to Stephen Warner, press secretary for Ontario’s Solicitor General, no, the limited operating hours do not include back-end tasks like these.
What can employees do if their job can be done from home, but their employer insists they return to the workplace?
According to an FAQ released by Doug Ford’s office, if an employee believes they should be working from home, they can contact the Minister of Labour to file a health and safety complaint. Warner, from the Solicitor General’s office also advised, “Further questions regarding enforcement of orders should be directed to the local police service.”
Can I travel to a second property within Ontario, or travel within the province?
Short answer: Don’t.
“Right now, we are asking people to stay home and only leave their home for essential purposes,” the ministry of health spokesperson said. “At this time we are not recommending intra-provincial travel.”
However, this comes with the exception of an essential trip to a second property, such as handling emergency repairs.
Can individuals who live alone still interact with one other household?
Yes. As with before, those who are living by themselves are allowed to interact with one other household. Emphasis on one household, and not one family for one weekend and another the next.
What does the five-person outdoor gathering limit mean?
The ministry has said five people can meet up outside so that those who live alone and require company for mental and physical health can get together with others. Physical distancing is expected, and mask use is strongly recommended by the province.
What rules exist for parents and children under visitation agreements?
Taking a child to the child’s parent or guardian or to the parent or guardian’s residence is permitted.
Am I allowed to assist my relatives who are in need?
Yes. Delivering goods or providing care or support to people who require it is allowed.
What about in-home caregiving services?
Domestic services that support children, seniors or vulnerable people are allowed to continue operating.
Will my housekeeper or maintenance person get fined?
No, individuals working or volunteering where the nature of the work or volunteering requires them to leave their residence will not be fined.
Can I still get takeout?
Yes, takeout is still allowed as before. Check with the business ahead of time as the operating hours might change.
I’m supposed to move into a new place. What do I do?
Moving residences is allowed under the new rules. Making arrangements to purchase or sell a residence, or a lease is also allowed.
Is there a certain distant or parameter I can travel from my house?
The stay-at-home order does not prescribe a limit based on distance.
Are Airbnbs and other short-term rentals still allowed?
Under the new guidelines, “pre-arranged booking for short-term rentals (are) prohibited” with the exception of housing needs. So, if it’s a staycation you’ve booked, it’s best to cancel it and reach out to the host or the rental company to see if you can get a refund due to the new provincial rules.
What about drive-in theatres and drive-thru entertainment?
They remain closed under the new rules. That includes drive-thru light tunnels, art shows, concerts and movie screenings.
Can I exercise and take part in outdoor recreation, or use provincial parks?
The Ontario government has confirmed that exercise is considered an essential reason to leave your home. This will differ between regions, the ministry spokesperson said, directing people to check with their municipalities about what recreational services are open.
The ministry also directed us to a long list of recreational activities that are allowed to operate at the provincial level, subject to unspecified conditions. The list was accompanied by a disclaimer: “No person is permitted to use an indoor or outdoor recreational amenity that is required to be closed.”
- Parks and recreational areas
- Soccer, football and sports fields
- Tennis, platform tennis, table tennis and pickleball courts
- Cycling tracks and bike trails
- Shooting ranges, including those operated by rod and gun clubs
- Snowmobile, cross country, dogsledding, ice-skating and snowshoe trails
- Portions of parks or recreational areas containing outdoor fitness equipment
- Tobogganing hills and skating trails
Ski hills are closed.
This information may change depending on your municipality.
In York Region, the municipality of Stouffville has announced that rinks, toboggan hills and the off-leash dog park are closed. In Toronto, Mayor John Tory has said the rules don’t make entirely clear what is allowed.
What can my children do outdoor for recreation?
You are allowed to use outdoor recreational amenities that are permitted and noted in the above question. You are also able to take your children to outdoor areas that are apart of your residence, such as a backyard, or access indoor or outdoor common areas of the communal residences where you reside that are open, such as building lobbies.
Are children/toddlers required to wear masks?
Children do not have to wear a face covering if they are younger than two years old.
Can I continue my home renovations?
Yes, you can continue renovations of a residential property as long as it was started before Jan. 12, 2021.
What is considered “essential” construction?
The following is allowed to operate:
- Demolition and land surveying services
- Construction projects associated with the health-care sector and long-term care
- Construction projects involving provincial and municipal infrastructure, such as transit and energy
- Construction projects involving educational and daycare institutions
- Construction projects under the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program
- Construction projects and services involving internet and cellular technology
- Industrial construction required for the operations of petrochemical plants and refineries
- Construction and modifications to existing industrial structures to produce PPE and other products directly related to combating the COVID-19 pandemic
- Construction projects slated to be completed before July 2021 to provide additional capacity in the food processing and manufacturing sector
- Construction projects that began before Jan. 12, 2021 to provide support for shipping and delivery services as well as information technology or telecommunication services
- Construction to prepare a site for commercial, institutional, residential or industrial development
- Residential construction projects where a footing permit has been granted for single, semi-detached and townhomes
- Condos, apartments, mixed-unit residential and residential construction projects
- Construction on any project intended to provide affordable housing, shelter or support for vulnerable persons
Is there a list of essential and non-essential workers and workplaces this time around?
Not that we are aware of at this time.