Curbside pick-up is low risk – transmission between employees is the concern

In memo to City Council on April 22nd, Dr. Vera Etches made clear that retail and restaurant curbside pickup is a low-risk activity supported by Ottawa Public Health. Her concern lies with workplaces. They continue to be locations where people come into close contact with others and where COVID-19 is transmitted.

The Board of Health has asked the Province to review and adjust the provincewide essential business policy with a focus on addressing areas where COVID rates are still rising in Ontario. Throughout the province, workplaces continue to be locations where people come into close contact with others and where COVID-19 is transmitted. The goal of these recommendations is to prevent transmission by limiting the places where people come into close contact with others outside their household. This is consistent with what the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table called for earlier this week to bend the curve in areas like the Greater Toronto Area.

In her memo, Dr. Etches wrote, “The concern is not with transmission to clients via retail and restaurant curbside pickup which is a low-risk practice. The concern is transmission between co-workers and to protect workers who are at greater risk from large outbreaks.”

In an April 19th letter to Premier Ford, Board of Health Chair Councillor Keith Egli and Dr. Etches requested that changes be made ensuring that only businesses providing groceries, medications and products or services essential for health and safety remain open. For the period of the stay-at-home order, only medically necessary care be provided.

In the letter, it was also requested that the language regarding school closure in Ontario Regulation 82/20 to replace “shall not provide in-person teaching or instruction” with “Schools shall be closed to all students except for […].” This change would provide greater clarity and ensure continued remote learning.

Egli and Etches also asked that an enforcement officers’ ability be enhanced to enter, investigate and close businesses in the rare instance when a business is not complying with public health requirements.

With a response not yet received from the provincial officials in follow-up to the Board of Health requests, they expect a response in the next few days. Should the Province decide not to pursue the Board’s recommendations, Ottawa Public Health staff are preparing a Section 22 Order to better enable City by-law officers to enter and inspect businesses and to take action in the rare instances when a business is not complying with public health requirements.

Dr. Etches added, “In Ottawa, businesses are working hard to keep employees and clients safe. Existing instruction from the Medical Officer of Health requires businesses to inform OPH of situations where two people in a workplace test positive within 14 days. Ottawa Public Health’s experience is that workplaces are working well to manage outbreaks and OPH has the capacity to keep up with outbreak management.”

She asks all residents to continue to practice Public Health regulations for a few weeks longer and, “Please stay two meters away from others, wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home if you’re feeling unwell and get tested if you are feeling sick.


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