As the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health region moves into Stage Three of the Provincial Framework for Reopening, Dr. Kieran Moore, Medical Officer of Health for the region, offered up some information and advice for local residents.
Moore hosted a press conference online on Friday, Jul. 17, 2020, the same day the region moved into Stage Three. He noted some of the changes that will occur during this stage, as well as some amendments that have been made to the Section 22 mandatory masking order, which is available here.
“We are now moving into Stage Three of reopening. Many businesses and public spaces will reopen as long as they follow the Public Health advice, and workplace safety guidance necessary to keep everyone safe,” he said.
Moore then outlined some of the key points of Stage Three as follows:
- Most businesses and public spaces are permitted to reopen
- Indoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 50 people
- Outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 100 people
- People at their place of work, including performers and crews do not count towards the gathering limits
When asked about the allowed number of people in gatherings, Moore explained that these referred to actual organized events, and not gathers arranged by people at their private residences.
“There would be no way to ensure physical distancing and other guidelines in someone’s backyard or driveway,” Moore said of people who might attempt to have gatherings of 50 to 100 people inside or outside at their private residences.
Those high-risk businesses or social settings that are not allowed yet include:
- amusement parks and water parks
- buffet-sty;le food services
- dancing at restaurants and bars (other than by the performers hired by the establishments following specific requirements)
- overnight camps
- private karaoke rooms
- prolonged or deliberate contact while playing sports
- saunas, steam rooms, bath houses, oxygen bars
- table games at casinos and gaming establishments
The amendments to the mandatory mask order
Moore explained the few amendments that have been made to the Section 22 (mandatory mask) order:
- Face coverings are not required in areas outside, such as patios
- Face coverings are not required if there is a physical barrier in place, such as a plexiglas barrier at a front desk or cash register. This pertains only to those working behind the barrier (members of the public coming into the establishments still have to wear face coverings), and it only pertains to employees while they are behind the barrier. If they have to come out from behind the barrier, a face covering should be worn.
- Face coverings are not required to be worn by those with underlying health conditions could be exacerbated by wearing a mask or covering. Those with such health conditions do not require a note from a doctor, although the final decision whether or not to serve the customer remains with the business.
- Children under two and children with cognitive issues are not required to wear a face covering.
Masking, hand hygiene to become ‘community standard,’ more cases expected
“Most modelling would show that we need around 80 to 90 per cent of the population when they can’t physically distance wearing a face covering, and that that will reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. And the best time to do it is before an outbreak, because that will limit the spread and limit the ability of the virus to move from person to person within the community,” Moore said.
“Clearly, our real goal is to make this a standard within our community, and I’m very happy that our community has embraced this, and our masking levels that I’ve seen walking around town have been excellent.
Moore said that, from a Public Health vantage point, to decrease the risk of disease spread, they want to see at least 80 to 90 per cent of the community wearing masks. He noted that Public Health does understand completely that there will be exemptions. He also said that mandatory masking was implemented right when the last outbreak in the region began for this reason.
“I honestly didn’t know where that was going to go in the community. I’m happy that we did aggressive case and contact management, we are down to having zero cases for many days in a row now, and I think we’ve got this small flame that wanted to turn into a fire under control,” Dr. Moore said.
“But we will have cases coming back into our community. The best means of protecting our community is all of those public Health measures, including masking by the majority… Many have asked ‘How long does this have to be in play?’ This has to be in play until we get population immunity, until we get an effective treatment, and/or an effective vaccine, and that is a year away,” he continued, noting these measures will help protect the most vulnerable populations, such as those living in long-term care or retirement homes.
“I have to thank the community. We’ve done so well so far, but we’ve got a long journey ahead of us of at least a year before we can even think about a safe and effective vaccine, and we need our community to embrace masking in public, and [for] going into commercial business and any other congregate settings until at least next summer.”
Staying safe as we reopen
Dr. Moore reiterated some of the advice shared by Dr. Gerald Evans regarding moving into Stage Three, particularly the advice that parents do not need to be too worried about using playgrounds. He said that much of the reason playgrounds remained closed for so long was due to lack of information. AS more information has become available about fomite transmission has become available, it appears that contracting the virus from touch services, particularly those outdoors, isn’t very common.
“Using a hand sanitizer before and after using playground equipment is a good idea,” Moore said.
Finally, Moore reiterated for what he has been saying since the pandemic reached our area.
“Proper hand hygiene, coughing etiquette, and, now, masking are the best practices, and we will need to make those part of our community standard, as well.”
Moore closed the press conference by explaining that KFL&A Public Health has been chosen to onboard the new case and contact management tool for the Province of Ontario, which will cause some delays in updating their COVID-19 Case Status Dashboard. He also revealed that, for four hours on Friday, Jul. 17, 2020, the region had no active cases of the virus, but that a positive lab result had been received since then. That means the total number of COVID-19 cases that have been documented in the region currently stands at 106, with one of those cases currently active. More details on that are available here.