Ottawa Public Health issues new COVID-19 directives to businesses

Vera Etches

Ensuring staff are practising physical distancing, new capacity restrictions for shopping malls and mandatory reporting of workplace COVID-19 outbreaks are among a new set of “instructions” for local businesses released by Ottawa Public Health aimed at reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The measures, which are to take effect first thing Wednesday morning, were announced before reports emerged that the provincial government was poised to announce sweeping shutdown measures on non-essential businesses across Ontario.

Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s medical officer of health, wrote in a letter to local employers that “more actions are needed to reduce spread/transmission of COVID-19.”

“Physical distancing plays a key role to reduce the risk of gatherings (crowds), particularly in closed spaces, and has been proven to limit COVID-19 spread/transmission,” she wrote.

The new rules include:

  • Immediately notifying Ottawa Public Health if two or more people connected to a workplace test positive for COVID-19;
  • Ensuring employees are aware of any benefits and pay they’re entitled to if they’re forced to isolate after showing symptoms of COVID-19, being tested or are a close contact of someone infected with COVID-19. This is aimed at encouraging employees to be forthright in reporting COVID-19 symptoms or contacts;
  • Ensuring employees practise physical distancing where possible, including in lunchrooms and washrooms, through measures such as the creation of one-way walkways;
  • Use physical barriers such as plexiglass where possible; and
  • Ensure employees wear masks in areas accessible to the public and in areas where physical distancing is a challenge.

There are also new capacity restrictions for retailers and shopping malls, including:

  • Ensuring patrons are practising physical distancing, including in lineups;
  • Setting a maximum capacity for patrons that enables individuals to keep a two-metre distance from one another and post the capacity notice in a conspicuous place.

“These additional measures are intended to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 where collective efforts of various sectors, including workplaces, are required to protect our communities,” Etches said.

Read the full letter here: