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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Toronto recommends stricter safety guidelines for Stage 3 in the city

The province is set to announce when Toronto will be allowed to enter Stage 3 of reopening — as most of the province has already done — this Wednesday, and the city just released a list of guidelines that are being recommended for once that day finally arrives.

While the provincial government has its own set of guidelines for what's allowed and what isn't under Stage 3, the city has acknowledged that Toronto faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to reopening due to its size and density, and therefore should be subject to its own set of individualized rules. 

As a result, the medical officer of health and city solicitor are recommending additional measures for bars and restaurants to prevent virus spread, including indoor capacity and table size limits, mandatory staff screening, requiring that patrons remain seated at all times unless they're going to or from the washroom or paying, and requiring that establishments record contact information of patrons and provide this information to Toronto Public Health when needed for contact tracing.

"The measures are in response to concerns that the opportunity for more close contact, especially in indoor settings, will result in more virus spread," notes a press release from the city.

"The recommendations echo the letter sent from Mayor Tory to the provincial government on July 18 requesting that strengthened measures recommended by public health be implemented as part of the provincial Stage 3 order applied to Toronto."

While the provincial government is ultimately tasked with considering these measures, city council is in a position to complement any future action by the province by implementing them through temporary provisions under Toronto Municipal Code, Chapter 545, Licensing.

And on top of the recommended rules for bars and restaurants, Toronto Public Health is also advising city council to adopt a temporary bylaw requiring the use of masks in common areas of residential condo and apartment buildings.

The mayor has previously suggested that residential buildings implement their own mask policies in areas such as lobbies and elevators, but this bylaw would make it a requirement across the board and include exemptions for individuals who are unable to wear a mask or face covering for medical reasons, children under two years old, and other reasonable accommodations. 

"The recent increases in COVID-19 cases reported in other jurisdictions that have reopened before us serve as a stark reminder of the potential for this virus to spread if given the chance," said Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa in a statement.

"My team continues to actively plan for a potential surge in COVID-19 activity, and this is why it is critical that appropriate measures are in place as we approach Stage 3 of reopening.  These additional measures will reduce the risk of this virus spreading in our city and help keep our residents safe as we move forward living with COVID-19."

In response to the recommendations released Tuesday afternoon, Toronto Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy published a statement proclaiming his support for the measures.

"I welcome these recommendations from our Medical Officer of Health and encourage City Council to adopt them. The threat of COVID-19 has not gone away. It is critical that we continue to listen to public health experts, as we have throughout our response to the pandemic," he said.

"The risk of COVID-19 will not go away until we have a widely-available treatment or vaccine. Until then, there will constantly be a risk of new outbreaks. We must balance re-opening with public health measures. Otherwise, we risk undoing everything that so many have sacrificed to achieve so far. We can contain this pandemic as long as we are cautious, committed, and take action to protect the people and communities most at risk."

by Mira Miller via blogTO

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