Re-opening Special Events

Waterloo Region is in Step 2 of Ontario’s Roadmap to Reopen. For more information please review Reopening Ontario.

Waterloo Region residents are strongly advised to continue practicing public health measures and get vaccinated to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Businesses and organizations can submit questions directly to the Ministry of Health.

As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, the Government of Ontario continues to take steps to ease or apply restrictions, as necessary, in the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, 2020.

COVID-19 continues to circulate in the community and there is a chance that a COVID-19 positive case may attend your event, so owners/operators must be prepared to make measures if this happens. For example, this could include reviewing the cleaning and disinfection schedule, providing a list of patrons to Public Health if requested, creating a communication plan to employees, or implementing a staffing plan if employees are close contacts that may be required to stay home and self-isolate. For information on what to do if there is a case in your setting, please review the Case in the Workplace section for more information.

With people gathering, the risk of COVID transmission significantly increases. While permit holders and users of the meeting or event space are responsible to follow the requirements under the Re-Opening of Ontario Act (ROA), the person responsible for a business or organization that is open, such as a meeting or event space, is ultimately responsible for compliance with all applicable laws, and advice, recommendations and instruction from public health, under the ROA.

With the holiday season approaching, check Celebrate Safely During COVID-19 on the Ministry website for helpful tips.


Screening

Individuals attending the meeting or event space must be actively screened before they enter the indoor premises of the business or place.

Collecting Contact Information

Collection of contact information is required for meeting or event spaces and conference/convention centres. The person responsible for the meeting or event space must:

  • Record the name and contact information of every member of the public who attends a meeting or event.
  • Maintain the records for a period of at least one month, and
  • Disclose the records to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act upon request.

Face coverings

Step 2 Requirements

Effective January 5 at 12:01 a.m. outdoor social gatherings may have no more than ten people. Indoor events and gatherings may have no more than five people.

Limits for religious services rites or ceremonies, including wedding services and funeral services (but not the associated gatherings/receptions) in all venues, where physical distancing can be maintained:

  • For indoors the number of people should be no more than 50 per cent capacity of the room
  • For outdoors, the capacity must be limited to permit physical distancing of two metres for each person

Indoor receptions may have no more than five people. Outdoor receptions are permitted with no more than ten people.

Every person in attendance at an indoor event must wear a mask or face covering at all times except when consuming food or drinks while seated.

Review the Reopening Roadmap for more information.

Sale and service of liquor

If liquor is sold or served, the person responsible for the business or place must ensure:

  • Liquor is only served or sold between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.
  • No consumption of liquor is allowed between 11 p.m. and 9 a.m.

Meeting and event space/conference and convention centres

  • Indoor Meeting or event space may only be rented out for specific purposes such as:
    • Child care
    • Social services
    • For the purpose of collective bargaining, so long as no more than 10 people are permitted to occupy the rented space
    • Delivering or supporting the delivery of court services
    • Government operations
    • Delivery of government services
    • Operations and services of the health sector, including immunization clinics
    • Mental health support services or addictions support services, so long as no more than ten people are permitted to occupy the rented space
    • In-person examinations for the registration, licensing or accreditation of persons in specific fields or occupations (described in subsection 2 (2) of Schedule 8 to Ontario Regulation 82/20), so long as no more than 50 students are permitted to occupy the rented space
  • Outdoor meeting or event space may be used under the following conditions:
    • The number of members of the public allowed in the meeting or event space at one time must be able to maintain a physical distance of least two metres at all times, but must not exceed 50 per cent capacity
    • Proof of vaccination is required for indoor patrons, and outdoor venues with a usual capacity of 20,000 or more
    • A clearly visible sign must be posted that states the capacity limit
    • No more than ten people may be seated at a table together
    • Patrons must remain seated at all times except when
      • entering or exiting the area
      • going to or returning from the washroom
      • lining up to: enter/exit the area, use the washroom, sing/perform music
      • where necessary for health and safety purposes
  • Individuals attending the meeting or event space must be actively screened before they enter the indoor premises of the business or place
  • A business or place may show a meeting or event space by appointment for a prospective rental
  • The person responsible for the meeting/event space shall:
    • Record the name and contact information of every member of the public who attends a meeting or event
    • Maintain the records for a period of at least one month
    • Only disclose the records to a medical officer of health or an inspector under the Health Protection and Promotion Act on request for a purpose specified in section 2 of that Act or as otherwise required by law
  • Collection of contact information does not apply to the rental of meeting or event space for the purpose of child care, social services, court services, government operations or the delivery of government services.

Live entertainment 

The person responsible for a business or place that is open shall ensure that, if live entertainment is performed for spectators:

  • The performers maintain a physical distance of at least two metres from any spectators, or
  • Are separated from any spectators by plexiglass or some other impermeable barrier.

In the case of an outdoor fair, rural exhibition or festival, this requirement applies to the business or person that hosts the outdoor event.

Outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, and festivals

Outdoor fairs, rural exhibitions, festivals and similar outdoor events may open if they comply with the following conditions:

  • The number of members of the public at a seated event or activity within the facility at any one time must not exceed 50 per cent of the usual seating capacity for the event or activity
  • No member of the public may attend a seated event or activity within the facility unless they have made a reservation to do so
  • Concerts, performances or movies offered at the event must comply with the conditions outlined below 
  • No member of the public may enter the indoor premises of the facility, except to/for:
    • Access a washroom
    • Access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route
    • Purchase admission
    • Engage in retail sales
    • The purposes of health and safety
  • Every person on an amusement ride, other than a water ride, must wear a mask or face covering with limited exceptions
  • The person responsible for the event must post a sign in a location visible to the public that states the capacity limits under which the event is permitted to operate and the capacity limits of any seated event or activity within the facility
  • The person responsible for the event must prepare a safety plan

Concert venues, theatres and cinemas

  • Indoor venues may only open for rehearsing or performing a recorded or broadcasted concert, artistic event, or performance with conditions:
    • No spectators permitted
    • Performers and staff must maintain two metres distancing except for the purposes of health and safety, or the performance or rehearsal
    • Contact information must be collected for all performers and staff and maintained for one month. Records will only be provided to the medical officer or health if requested.
  • Proof of vaccination is required for indoor patrons and outdoor venues with a usual capacity of 20,000 or more
  • Outdoor venues may open with conditions:
    • Spectators must be seated at all times while watching the concert, event, performance or film
    • The number of patrons must not exceed 50 per cent capacity of the usual seating capacity
    • Reservations are required to attend
    • A sign must be posted in a location visible to the public that states the capacity limits
    • The person responsible for the facility must prepare a safety plan
    • Face masks or coverings are required, with limited exceptions
    • No member of the public may enter the indoor premises of the facility, except:
      • to access a washroom
      • to access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route
      • to purchase admission
      • to engage in retail sales
      • for the purposes of health and safety

Amusement parks

  • Indoor amusement and waterparks are closed.
  • Outdoor capacity limited to a maximum of 50 per cent for seated events or activities
  • Maximum capacity must be posted
  • Reservations required for outdoor seated events
  • Restrictions apply for concerts, events, performances or movies held at the establishment (see the concert venues, theatres and cinemas section above)
  • Face masks/coverings required on amusement rides when within two metres of another person, with limited exceptions
  • Must have a safety plan with additional requirements
  • No member of the public may enter the indoor premises of the facility, except:
    • To access a washroom
    • To access an outdoor area that can only be accessed through an indoor route
    • To purchase admission
    • To engage in retail sales
    • For the purposes of health and safety

Recommendations

Given that COVID-19 presents some challenges with operation, the information below contains Public Health recommendations that may be considered to ensure Special Event organizers, staff, vendors and patrons minimize their risk of exposure to the virus while on site.

Organizers/Coordinators responsible for outdoor Special Events, who choose to operate during the COVID pandemic should follow the Public Health recommendations below to help minimize onsite exposures to COVID-19. In addition, Organizers are to submit plans for food operations to Public Health 45 days in advance of the event by contacting a Public Health Inspector at 519-575-4400 and completing the online Special Event Coordinator Form in order to provide Public Health with sufficient time to review and approve your event. For Special Event applications and resources please visit the Restaurants and Food Services. In addition, the event is to follow the COVID-19 measures as outlined in our Mobile Food Premises/Temporary Food Vendors guidance page.

Promote physical distancing

  • COVID-19 is largely transmitted through respiratory droplets that can spread up to two metres or six feet. Thus, physical distancing should be maintained by staff, vendors, and patrons, at all times. Physical distancing means allowing for two metres or six feet distance between individuals.
  • When physical distancing is not possible, face masks and eye protection should be worn. 
  • Consider keeping event capacity at a level lower than permitted by the applicable laws to further assist event organizers, staff, and volunteers in maintaining a safe environment.
  • Where possible, facilitate the one-way flow of people throughout the event space in order to minimize face-to-face foot traffic. Ideally, people should not pass by one another face-to-face.
  • To help promote physical distancing and the safe flow of people, consider using posters or signage, arrows, barriers, or other markings to remind patrons and staff of the need to maintain a safe distance.
  • Organizers should also establish a plan for monitoring and maintaining physical distancing and the safe flow of people to ensure crowding does not occur and appropriate distance can be maintained. This may include assigning staff or volunteers to help direct traffic or advise vendors, as appropriate.

Monitor entry into the space

  • In order to control the number of patrons within the space, and to enable the flow of one-way foot traffic, Event venues should have only one entrance point, where possible.
  • Erect barriers to direct people to limited entrance points. Staff or volunteers should be present at the Event entrance points to monitor entry and capacity levels.  
  • Conduct active or passive screening, based on Regulation requirements.
  • Capacity limits, as stated above must be followed.
  • Consider keeping event capacity at a level lower than permitted by the applicable laws to further assist event organizers, staff, and volunteers in maintaining a safe environment.
  • Reservations may be required for some events. Check the requirements of each Step to be sure.
  • To ensure safe capacity levels, event operators should establish a system for patrons to line up in order to gain access to the Event. Patrons must maintain physical distance of two metres or six feet between themselves and others in line. Use pylons, staff monitors, or other markers to assist patrons with practicing proper physical distancing while waiting in line.
  • Handwashing stations (equipped with soap, single use towels, and warm, running water) and/or hand sanitizer (with at least 60 per cent alcohol content) should be located at the entrance to the Event. Patrons and anyone else entering the Event should wash or sanitize their hands upon entry.

Implement enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices

  • Event operators should establish a plan, in collaboration with vendors, to enhance cleaning and disinfecting practices.
  • In addition to standard protocols for routine cleaning and disinfection, all common areas (e.g. washrooms) and high-touch surface areas (e.g. doorknobs, counters, handrails, debit/credit card machines) require disinfecting at increased levels and frequencies (i.e. at least once daily).
  • Disinfectant solutions should have an eight-digit drug identification number (DIN) approved by Health Canada. This indicates that it is effective against COVID-19. Diluted bleach solution can be used as a disinfectant. Surfaces must be cleaned before applying a bleach solution. Allow at least two minutes before the solution dries or is wiped away with a clean cloth.
    • Note that bleach solution gets weaker in heat and sun; if kept outside, the solution should be re-mixed at least twice a day. Health Canada recommends diluted bleach be prepared according to the instructions on the label or, assuming the bleach is five per cent sodium hypochlorite, in a ratio of:
    • One teaspoon (5 mL) per cup (250 mL) or
    • Four teaspoons (20 mL) per litre (1000 mL)
  • See this fact sheet from Public Health Ontario for cleaning and disinfection in public settings.
  • Disinfectants, household cleaners, and bleach are for surfaces only. Never use these products on skin or internally (e.g., by swallowing or injecting these products) as this could cause serious harm.
  • Use test strips to verify the appropriate concentration levels if the disinfectant is not pre-mixed. Always read and follow manufacturers’ instructions for safe use (e.g., wear gloves and use in well-ventilated area).

Promote good hand and respiratory hygiene

  • Event staff, vendors, and patrons should be advised to practice good hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Good hand hygiene includes washing hands frequently with warm, soapy water and/or sanitizing hands frequently with hand sanitizer that has at least sixty per cent alcohol content.
  • Good respiratory etiquette includes coughing or sneezing into a bent elbow or disposable tissue.
  • Event operators should consider posting the following signage from Public Health Ontario in washrooms or other common areas throughout the space: Hand Hygiene signage and Cover your Cough signage.
  • Event staff and vendors should be reminded to properly clean their hands before handling food items; after processing payments; after coughing, sneezing, or touching the face; after cleaning and sanitizing/disinfecting surfaces; upon returning from a break; or at any other time that hands may become contaminated.
  • Handwashing stations (equipped with liquid soap, single use towels, and warm, running water) and/or hand sanitizer (with at least 60 per cent alcohol content) should be located throughout the Event space, including the entrance, at each vendor booth, and other common areas. Event operators should establish a plan, in collaboration with vendors, to ensure handwashing or hand sanitizing materials are available at vendor booths/throughout the space.
  • Glove use among event staff and vendors should not be a requirement. Incorrect glove use can lead to cross-contamination of surfaces.
    • If staff or vendors choose to use gloves, handwashing is required before gloves are put on, and after gloves are removed
    • Plastic, latex, and nitrile gloves are intended to be single-use only. Never re-use gloves
  • Face masks should be used by event staff, volunteers, vendors, and patrons subject to exemptions.
    • Face masks are mandatory in instances where physical distancing of two metres or six feet between cannot be maintained
    • For those that do wear face masks, proper donning and doffing measures should be followed. This includes properly washing or sanitizing hands prior to putting the face mask on and after taking the face mask off
    • Individuals should handle the face mask by the elastic ear hooks and avoid touching the part the goes over the mouth and nose

For more information, see Public Health Ontario When and How to Wear a Mask

Implement additional food handling and point of sale precautions

  • In addition to operating in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, such as the Ontario Food Premises Regulation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Event organizers and vendors should consider implementing additional food handling and point of sale precautions, such as the following:
    • Vendor booths set-up to reduce customer contact with food items. 
    • Prepared food items should be packaged (wrapped or bagged) as much as possible. Items that are not wrapped (such as produce, single-serve bakery items, etc.) must be stored in a manner that protects them from contamination. For example use of barriers, such as Plexiglas or similar.
    • Vendors should select food items for patrons and then place them on a table for patrons to pick up. This method of shopping permits physical distancing between customers and vendors.
    • Online or telephone ordering is encouraged so that customer orders are ready for pick-up at the time of their visit. This helps to minimize the amount of time patrons are spending in the area and supports the safe flow of people/physical distancing.
    • Implementing a drive-thru food pick-up event consistent with the practices and principles of typical food premises drive through / curbside pick-up reduces COVID-19 risks and is encouraged
    • Where feasible, operators and/or vendors should consider implementing cashless payment systems or encouraging only debit or credit card payment. In any case, it is recommended that each vendor have one person to select the items patrons are purchasing and another person to process payments. Proper handwashing/hand sanitizing must be practiced after each payment is processed.
    • Patrons may use re-usable bags for their own use only. Re-usable shopping bags should be cleaned and sanitized/disinfected after each use and only be handled by the patron.
    • Refer to the Mobile Food Premises/Temporary Vendors page for specific requirements

Maintain communications

  • Ensure event staff, volunteers, and vendors are aware of any policies or procedures that will be implemented while operating within the context of COVID-19. Event organizers should work with vendors to create individual plans, as needed, and/or to secure signed agreements to any new policies or procedures due to COVID-19.
  • Event organizers should ensure all staff, volunteers, and vendors know to stay home if they have COVID-19 symptoms. Event staff, volunteers, and vendors must  complete the Ontario Screening Tool prior to attending the event. Anyone experiencing symptoms must stay home. A record of the screening results should be kept.
  • Event organizers should consider communicating to patrons about the COVID-19 precautions they are implementing to help minimize the risk of exposure (e.g. via social media). This will help patrons know what to expect before coming to the event. In addition, as noted above, event organizers should consider posting signage throughout the space to remind patrons about:
    • COVID-19 symptoms and staying home when ill
    • Physical distancing practices
    • Good hygiene and respiratory etiquette

Event organizers should maintain a log of staff and vendors that are onsite daily. At a minimum, name, dates and times of entry, places accessed within the venue, and contact information should be documented. Having this information will assist Public Health with close-contact tracing and communication should someone fall ill with COVID-19, or come into close contact with a person that has tested positive for COVID-19.

Applicable Laws and Regulations

Notwithstanding the above, event organizers and vendors must continue to comply with all applicable legislation, including:

See the current Reopening Ontario Roadmap for the current stage requirements.

Other Resources

The following is a list of other helpful resources and webpages to consider:

For more information regarding the Province’s guidelines regarding Infection Prevention and Control, please review the Ministry of Labour's Resources to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace.

Public Health does not provide approvals regarding your ability to operate and it remains the business’s responsibility to ensure compliance with all applicable laws to operate at this time. These guidelines and resources should be reviewed and followed.

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