Dr. Piotr Oglaza, Medical Officer of Health for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) Public Health, has issued the first of two Letters of Instruction regarding new COVID-19 guidelines for the region expected this week.
The first, a “Letter of Instruction to Protect the Public from COVID-19,” was issued on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021, and outlines new requirements regarding symptom screening lists for staff and patrons, and stricter mask use guidelines for businesses and organizations. The letter is “pursuant to Section 2 of Schedule 1 of Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas at Step 3 and at the Roadmap Exit Step, to require businesses and organizations to implement strict mask use and an expanded list of symptoms for screening staff and patrons,” KFL&A Public Health said in the letter.
These new measures will become effective at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, less than 48 hours after the letter was issued.
“Social interaction in businesses and organizations have the potential to increase COVID-19 transmission, especially when staff and patrons are symptomatic and remove their mask,” Dr. Oglaza said in a statement. “This letter of instruction adds protection against the spread of COVID-19 in our community.”
The Letter of Instruction will address situations where KFL&A Public Health is seeing transmission of the COVID-19 virus, the local Health Unit said. Those include:
- Close contact
- Crowded spaces
- Crowded places
“The Letter of Instruction will remain in effect until such time as the Medical Officer of Health determines it is no longer required. Individuals who do not comply with this Letter of Instruction may be liable for a fine up to a maximum of $100,000,” Public Health said.
Letter of Instruction details
The Letter of Instruction is addressed to those “responsible for a business or organization that is under Step 3 of O. Regulation 364/20 in the City of Kingston, and counties of Frontenac and Lennox & Addington.”
“Activities related to social gathering indoors have the potential to increase risk factors for COVID-19 transmission, including close contact, closed spaces, and crowded places. Local case investigations have demonstrated that COVID-19 transmission is happening during unstructured interactions in social environments. The risk of transmission greatly increases when patrons are symptomatic and not wearing masks,” the letter reads.
Regulation 364/20 requires those responsible for businesses or organizations to screen all patrons “either actively or passively,” before they enter a business or organization.
“Active screening is required in higher risk settings, such as meeting or event spaces, restaurants, personal care services, businesses that provide teaching and instruction, sports and recreational fitness facilities, and photography studios, to reduce the risk of transmission during service and/or social interactions,” the letter continues.
“However, local case management data demonstrates that COVID-19 transmission in these higher risk settings is occurring due to the provision of service and/or interactions with symptomatic individuals.”
Those responsible for businesses and organizations must also ensure patrons are wearing masks when indoors at all times, with few exceptions.
“One such exception is when a person needs to remove their mask, temporarily, to consume food or drink,” the letter reads. “Outbreaks of COVID-19 have been associated with facilities where patrons are typically mobile when eating and drinking, such as meeting and event spaces and nightclubs.”
The letter goes on to outline further specifics of these requirements and to define terms used throughout it. The entirety of the letter can be read here. The expanded list of symptom screening questions for businesses/organizations is available here.