COVID-19 Guidance for Special Events (Indoor and Outdoor)

As of Oct. 2, Ontario recommends we all pull back from our social circles and limit close contact only to those living in their own household. People who live alone may consider having close contact with one other household.

Large gatherings like special events can contribute to the spread of respiratory pathogens, such as COVID-19.

The following guidance is to support event organizers and operators with their planning. It provides recommendations to reduce the risks of COVID-19 -- it's not legal advice. Indoor and outdoor events or gatherings covered in the guidance includes:

  • Concerts and live shows, including performing arts events
  • Meeting or event spaces
  • Movie theatres and cinemas
  • All other organized or spontaneous indoor and outdoor events and social gatherings, such as parties, fundraisers, fairs, wedding receptions and funeral receptions

Event Requirements

Event coordinators and operating venues must review and stay up to date with:

Event application

Individuals or groups planning to organize or operate any event where the general public is invited and will consume food or beverages or receive personal services must notify Niagara Region Public Health. Complete and submit an application within the required 30 days of the event for review by a public health inspector.

If your event doesn't have any food or personal service settings vendors, you don't need to notify Niagara Region Public Health.

This application doesn't replace the need for applicable city permits. You must contact your local municipality for permits.

Social Gathering Limits for Ontario

As of Sept. 19, the Ontario government has lowered limits for unmonitored and private social gatherings:

  • 10 people at an indoor event or gathering (previous limit of 50)
  • 25 people at an outdoor event or gathering (previous limit of 100)

The lower limit applies to all unmonitored social gatherings, including parties, dinners, gatherings, BBQs and wedding receptions held in private residences, backyards, parks and other recreational areas.

Monitored Gathering Limits

The limits don't apply to 'monitored' social gatherings or organized public events in staffed businesses and facilities, such as bars, restaurants, cinemas, convention centres, banquet halls, gyms, places of worship, and doesn't include recreational sporting or performing arts events.

These facilities and events are mandated to follow very specific public health and safety guidelines to minimize risk and limit any spread of COVID-19. Monitored gathering limits are:

  • 50 people at an indoor event or gathering
  • 100 people at an outdoor gathering

Minimum Guidance Requirements

The province has set restrictions and public gathering limits for higher risk settings and activities where people assemble. These limits apply to indoor and outdoor events and include staying at least two metres away from people who are outside your household or social circles.

Indoor and outdoor events or gatherings cannot be combined in order to increase the applicable limit on the number of people at the event or gathering. Refer to Ontario Regulation 364/20 for more detailed information and exceptions.

  • Protective measures to keep everyone safe
    • Stay home when you're sick
    • Clean your hands often for 20 seconds, and avoid touching your face with unwashed hands
    • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or tissue
    • Keep a two metre distance from others, when possible
    • Wear a face covering / mask when you're in an enclosed public setting, as per the face covering by-law, and when you cannot maintain a two metre distance outdoors
    • Clean and disinfect high touch surfaces as least twice daily or more when visibly soiled
  • COVID-19 screening for patrons
    • Consider pre-event / gathering communications to attendees to share information on protocols and expected behaviours. Reinforce the message that people must not attend if they're ill.
    • Use posters to encourage passive screening before entering the venue. Direct anyone who answers YES to any of the screening questions to go home immediately, self-isolate, and call their health care provider or the COVID-19 Info-Line at 905-688-8248 and a public health professional will provide further direction.
  • Face coverings by-law
    • All staff, patrons and performers must wear a face covering indoors, as per the face covering by-law. Some exceptions apply, including children under the age of five, and people with medical conditions that make wearing a face covering difficult.
    • Face coverings are strongly recommended outdoors when physical distancing cannot be maintained
    • Employers should refer to the sector-specific guidelines to find out what types of mask guidelines and preventive measures are appropriate for their workplace settings
    • Educate staff on the proper use and disposal of masks
  • Hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette
    • Make sure your venue(s) downloads and posts signs at the entrance and throughout the premises encouraging guests to practise safety measures such as hand hygiene, hand hygiene with alcohol-based hand rub and respiratory etiquette
    • Provide hand sanitizer dispensers with at least 60-90 per cent alcohol concentration by entrances and throughout the venue for everyone to use
    • Ensure an adequate supply of liquid soap, paper towels, hand sanitizer, tissues and waste receptacles throughout the venue and in washrooms
  • Physical distancing
    • Physical distancing is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Physical distancing means keeping a distance of two metres from others.
    • Arrange, mark / or assign seating by social circles. A social circle has a limit of 10 people. A person cannot belong to more than one social circle. A social circle can interact with each other without physical distancing.
    • Face coverings should be worn when physical distancing (two metres) is hard to maintain outside. Face coverings must be worn when indoors.
    • Design an attendee flow that encourages clearly marked directional arrows on the floor
    • Ensure enough space for people in high traffic areas, between chairs, tables, and places where people may gather
    • Identify areas where crowding and bottlenecks are common, such as lobbies or bathrooms, and use volunteers, staff or barriers to redirect people who may gather in these areas
    • Ensure a minimum distance of at least two metres between performers and audience seating by blocking off the front two rows of spectator seating, if necessary
    • A Plexiglas shield or other impermeable barrier is required between singers and players of brass or wind instruments and any spectators
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Food and drink
    • Venues that serve food and drink must also comply with the regulations and guidance for restaurants and bars
    • Where food and drink is served, guests must remain seated except to use the washroom, entering and exiting the area, or for the purposes of health and safety
    • Face coverings are required when using an indoor washroom or anytime the guest isn't seated or eating / drinking
    • Plated meals are preferred
    • Communal and self-serve food services, such as buffets and passing of hors-d’oeuvres aren't permitted at this time
  • Modifed programming
    • Consider virtual options, such as live streaming, pre-recorded shows, small acoustic concerts, solo performances, or virtual reality and other digital experiences
    • Where possible, hold events outdoors instead of indoors
    • Offer more events / gatherings at a reduced capacity rather than hosting a single large event / gathering, such as offering multiple, staggered activities with a limit on the number of attendees
    • Allow sufficient time between events / gatherings for safe and distanced exit and entry, and sufficient environmental cleaning and disinfecting in between
    • Keep the duration of the event / gathering to a minimum to limit contact among attendees
    • Close or restrict access to non-essential common areas, such as photo booth with props, merchandise kiosks, concession stands and communal lounges
    • Discourage activities that can contribute to the spread of COVID-19, such as singing, cheering, dancing, playing wind instruments and hugging. Encourage alternative practices, where applicable, such as humming, clapping, noisemakers and waving.
  • COVID-19 outbreak and contact tracing
    • Keep a list of names and contact information for all individuals who attend the event / gathering. The contact list shall be disclosed to a Niagara Region Public Health professional for COVID-19 contact tracing or where other public health purposes are required. The contact list must be securely stored for 30 days and then destroyed by the premise operator, if it's not used for the purposes outlined above.
    • Develop protocols in advance that specifically address how to safely care for attendees who develop COVID-19 related symptoms, or who need care for such things as injury, illness or who are emotionally upset while at the event / gathering
    • Contact Niagara Region Public Health COVID-19 Info-Line at 905-688-8248 press 7, then press 3 for guidance if you have been notified that an employee, vendor, performer or attendee has tested positive, and / or you have concerns that others may have been exposed to a person with COVID-19 at the event / gathering
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Communication

Monitored Events and Social Gatherings Quick Reference

Outdoor events

Physical distancing is critical to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings should be worn when physical distancing (two metres) is hard to maintain.

  • Outdoor event with no food or drinks
    • Maximum of 100 people
    • Guests can mingle and must maintain a two metre distance
    • Face coverings must be worn when physical distancing is difficult, such as going to the washroom
    • Dancing isn't allowed, unless by a performer
    • Singers and musicians must physically distance from each other and be separated from guests by a barrier, such as Plexiglas
  • Outdoor event with food or drinks
    • Maximum of 100 people
    • Arrange seating by social circles. No more than 10 people per table.
    • Stay seated at all times, except to use the washroom or leave
    • Dancing isn't allowed, unless by a performer
    • Singers and musicians must physical distance from each other and be separated from guests by a barrier, such as Plexiglas
  • Drive-in / drive thru event
    • No maximum
    • Cars must be parked two metres from each other
    • Guests cannot leave the car except to use the washroom. Face coverings are required when going indoors to use the washroom.

Indoor events

Face coverings must be worn at all times except when eating. Remind guests that physical distancing is still important even when wearing a face covering.

  • Indoor event with no food or drinks
    • Maximum of 50 people
    • Guests can mingle and must maintain a two metre distance
    • Face coverings must be worn at all times
    • Dancing isn't allowed, unless by a performer
    • Singers and musicians must physically distance from each other and be separated from guests by a barrier, such as Plexiglas
  • Outdoor event with food or drinks
    • Maximum of 50 people
    • Arrange seating by social circles. No more than 10 people per table.
    • Stay seated at all times, except to use the washroom or leave
    • Dancing isn't allowed, unless by a performer
    • Singers and musicians must physical distance from each other and be separated from guests by a barrier, such as Plexiglas
  • Religious service, rite or ceremony in a place of worship with no food or drinks
    • Up to 30 per cent of the room capacity, based on ability to physically distance
    • No choir, singing, dancing or performers at this time
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