On Friday February 19, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and two other regions will remain in shutdown for at least two more weeks. Among other things, this means that workers who are nonessential to in-person operations must continue to work from home. This represents the province pausing its recent efforts to reopen most of Ontario’s regions.
In Toronto, Peel, and the North Bay-Parry Sound District, the strict shutdown measures and the stay-at-home order will continue to apply until March 8, 2021. This means that these three regions will remain outside of the revised COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. However, effective Monday, February 22, 2021, the neighbouring York Public Health Region will enter the framework at the Red-Control level and no longer be subject to the stay-at-home order.
Recap of Shutdown Measures for Retailers
Under the shutdown measures, general retailers must remain closed to in-person shopping. These retailers—which include hardware stores, pet food stores, and computer stores – must comply with the following restrictions:
- “Sales must be exclusively made using an alternative method of sale that does not require patrons to enter the indoor area of the business, including curbside pickup or delivery”
- “If the business allows patrons to pick up items, it must,
- have a public entrance that opens onto a street or exterior sidewalk, or
- in the case of a business in a shopping mall, permit patrons to pick up the items at a designated location established by the shopping mall”
- “An item may only be provided for pickup if the patron ordered the item before arriving at the business premises”
- General retailers “must open no earlier than 7:00 a.m. and close no later than 8:00 p.m. and may not deliver goods to patrons outside of those hours.”
Stores that sell primarily food, such as supermarkets, convenience stores, indoor farmer’s markets, can open if capacity is limited to 50 percent, and patrons can maintain “at least 2 metres” of physical distancing.
Big box stores and discount retailers can open if capacity is limited to 25 percent and patrons can maintain at least 2 metres of physical distancing.
Recap of Revised COVID-19 Response Framework for Retailers
Once public health units reenter the COVID-19 Reponses Framework, in-person shopping will be permitted for all retailers, even if a unit is placed into the most restrictive Grey-Lockdown level.
Key Takeaways for Employers
Employers in the Toronto and Peel regions must continue to ensure that employees work remotely, “unless the nature of their work requires them to be on-site at the workplace.” Further, retail employers that were planning on allowing in-store shopping as of February 22, 2021—the original expiry date of the stay-at-home order—must hold off on reopening plans.
Ogletree Deakins will continue to monitor and report on developments with respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and will post updates in the firm’s Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center as additional information becomes available. Important information for employers is also available via the firm’s webinar and podcast programs.
Michael C. Comartin is a partner in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.
Caroline M. DeBruin is a 2020 graduate of Queen’s University, Faculty of Law, and an articling student in the Toronto office of Ogletree Deakins.