The Province of Ontario moved to to Step 3 of the “Roadmap to Reopen” on Friday, July 16.
The Diocese of Ontario adjusted the Guidelines for our churches and organizations effective
MONDAY JULY 19, 2021
KEY CHANGES IN THE DIOCESE OF ONTARIO GUIDELINES
Like the previous two steps, Step 3 permits Indoor Religious Services, Rites or Ceremonies (including wedding services and funeral services, with an increase (in most cases) to the capacity that can be permitted indoors. The capacity limit in Step 3 is based on the number of people which can be seated with proper physical distancing.
For indoor services (includes weddings and funerals)
In Step 3, the maximum capacity for indoor services is now limited to the number of people who can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the room. For this calculation, there must be 2 metres distancing between each and every person, regardless if they are from the same household.
You can refer to the planning document (Physical Space Planning Guide - Amber Phase from the fall of 2020) that was completed for each church to help with this calculation. It can be found on the Amber Stage Guidelines page on the diocesan website COVID Hub.
The health guidelines also provide that capacity can be calculated by taking the square metres of open floorspace available for seating (not including closets, washrooms, stairs and other non seating portions of the building) and dividing it by 4 square metres (2m X 2m). For example, if the church has 100 square metres of seating space (10 m X 10 m), the capacity would be 25 people (100 sq m/4 sq m).
This calculation of seating is purely for the purpose of determining the maximum capacity of the church or room. At any indoor service of worship, the total number of people (including those leading worship, wardens, musicians, sides people, servers and congregation) may not exceed the limit determined as above. Those who are in the same household or family bubble may be seated without distancing. There must be 2 metres distancing between each household or family bubble.
Outdoor Services continue to be capped at the number of people that can maintain a physical distance of two metres.
Masks must continue to be properly worn (covering the mouth, nose, and chin) at all times (indoors or outdoors) other than when taking the communion wafer from the hands to the mouth.
The guidelines for: Liturgy and sacrament
all remain unchanged.
For outdoor services, congregational singing and choral ensembles are permitted, provided that
Where drive-in services are held, each vehicle must be positioned at least two metres away from any other vehicle.
The pastoral care guidelines remain unchanged. Clergy and pastoral care teams should regularly communicate with parishioners by phone, email, social media, and other remote means, prioritizing those who may be isolated. Where possible, in person pastoral care should occur outdoors. Masks must be worn at all times.
Indoor meetings or social gatherings can have a maximum of the lesser of 25 people OR the number of people that can be seated/stand with 2 metres of physical distancing between each person. This would also apply to social gatherings such as after church socials (coffee hour), wedding receptions or funerals. Please note that food and beverages can only be provided if there is table seating in place (with physical distancing) and service staff to deliver the food. No self serve or buffet service (including coffee, tea, lemonade, etc.) is permitted.
Outdoor social gatherings or meetings can have a maximum of the lesser of 100 people OR the number of people that can be seated/stand with 2 metres of physical distancing between each person. This would also apply to social gatherings such as After Church Socials (Coffee Hour), Wedding Receptions or Funerals. Please note that food and beverages can only be provided if there is table seating in place (with physical distancing) and service staff to deliver the food. No self serve or buffet service (including coffee, tea, lemonade, etc.) is permitted.
The number of people at an indoor, seated concert or other non-worship public event may not exceed the number of people permitted in the building for a service of worship. Food and beverage is not permitted.
Hall and church facility rentals may resume, subject to the capacity limitations and the safety protocols (masks, distancing, sanitizing, contact information, etc). Renters must conform to provincial regulations that may govern their activity (eg personal care, fitness, catering, etc.). Each group must provide the parish wardens with a safety plan.
Thrift stores now have a retail capacity which is governed by the total number of people that can maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from every other person in the building. A sign must be posted in a conspicuous location, visible to the public that states the capacity limits for the building.
The transmission of the virus predominantly occurs through droplets in the air (aerosols). The best ventilation and therefore the lowest risk is outdoors. Where indoor activities (including worship) occur, you should make every effort to maximize ventilation (pushing air out of the building so that fresh air is drawn in). As per the previous guidelines, doors and windows should be open. Fans should always be pushing airflow out of the building and never directly at any person.
In general, parish activities (ministries, faith formation, outreach, social, etc.) should continue to occur on-line or outdoors wherever possible.
The provincial regulations make it clear that the person(s) responsible for an organization or business shall ensure that the organization is in compliance with the regulations and recommendations, including physical distancing, sanitizing, wearing of masks, contact tracing etc. In the case of our churches, it would be the wardens who are ultimately responsible.
Based on the guidelines from the province, we will remain in Step 3 until 80% of the eligible population (aged 12 and over) has received one dose of a vaccine and 75% have received their second, with no regions having less than 70% fully vaccinated. The province expects that we will remain in this Step for at least 3 weeks (21 days).
Given the current status and guidelines, the diocese expects that all of our churches will have re-opened by September. Any exceptions will be reviewed with the wardens on an individual basis.
We continue to approach the easing of safety measures with caution and concern for our communities. We must remain vigilant, careful and ready to adapt as situations change. As the church, together with the rest of society, contemplates the future, it is already clear that many congregations will continue to stream services and meet online as part of a “hybrid” or “mixed mode” approach to worship in the wake of the pandemic.
Any questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.