Under pressure: Supporting small businesses during enforcement of the Quarantine Act

Local news sources including the Kingstonist report that the City of Kingston and Loyalist Township have declared a state of emergency as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration from the Medical Officer of Health of KFL&A, Dr. Kieran Moore initiates the emergency plan of our municipality, even more directly protecting the health, safety, and well-being of residents.

Dr. Moore also believes that ‘it is prudent and responsible’ to have invoked the federal Quarantine Act, as well. He acknowledges that these measures are crucial, and enforcement requires serious consideration.

Without question, we already owe and will continue to owe support and gratitude to the essential workers in our community, physicians, nurses, first responders, utility workers, transportation operators, to name only a few. So too, do we owe gratitude to some of the less recognizable heroes in our midst. Small businesses, which make up 70 per cent of the private sector employees in Canada and around the globe are now suffering significant economic challenges.

Included in this group in my rural community are the following small businesses, which I think have been going above and beyond to help protect those of us in the KFL&A area.

Our local grocery store, Schell’s Market, in the Village of Bath, has, for more than two weeks, implemented a new, free home delivery service. This service is a blessing for our community where our population demographic is skewed strongly toward the elderly and a high percentage of ‘snowbirds’ returning home, which makes our neighbourhoods some of the most vulnerable.

In addition and due to its small size, our village only supports a single pharmacy. The Pharmasave holds the position in our local community as an essential service. To respond to this need, our pharmacy has implemented a creative and preventative policy of distributing much-needed prescription medications to local customers.

A staff member at the Pharmasave in Bath passes a prescription to a customer through the front door. Photo by Cliff Morton.

Obtaining a medication now requires two phone calls, one to order the prescription drug and the other from just outside the front door of the business. The second call cues one of the staff to open the door and pass the requested medication carefully to the patient. This small but highly effective modification to their service is new and a direct response to the COVID-19 contagion.

A few days ago, on my way to the Cataraqui Trail, I had the opportunity to stop at the small village of Camden East, and McCormick’s Country Store.

As you know, a store in a small non-urban setting serves the grocery, hardware, entertainment, travel, etc. needs of the local population. McCormick’s is no exception, its walls and shelves stocked with all nature of items from work gloves to frozen meat. What so impressed me was, once again, the voluntary response the store has implemented. The store now follows a sensible policy to both serve its customers and protect them from the virus.

Immediately upon arrival to the entrance, customers see a sign outside the door with recommendations already announced by our federal government to ensure that one’s return from out of Canada, or even the initial stages of flu-like symptoms, mean one must self-quarantine for 14 days. It reminds us too of the potential consequences to our neighbours if the procedures are ignored. McCormick’s store goes further, however. A sign on each of the gas pumps asks customers to remain in their vehicle and allow store staff to pump their fuel.

The gas pumps at McCormick’s Country Store. Photo by Cliff Morton.

Upon entering the store and above the service desk and cash register, the owners have installed a large, protective, transparent sheet of plexiglass. The glass, including an inspirational message of the day, restricts any air-borne contact between customers and staff. My single purchase on this day also illustrated the frequent use of hand sanitizer by the service staff.

These three businesses are only a small sample of the preventative contributions made by many, many other organizations in our community. I describe their creative precautions only because I have had personal contact with them in the past few days. We are, according to media announcements, at the stage when, to ensure compliance and to ‘flatten the curve,’ financial penalties will be imposed on those of us who selfishly ignore the advice of our medical community. We will be watched to ensure we are following health recommendations of the Quarantine Act.

It is hoped that these three examples can serve as some measure of inspiration to all of us to adopt behaviours that help protect our friends and neighbours.

A staff member at McCormick’s Country Store smiles from behind a pane of plexiglass. Photo by Cliff Morton.

We can continue to support other businesses, too, by replying to this article with their names and the measures they are taking to help keep all of us safe.

Cliff Morton now lives in the Village of Bath. He grew up in the 1950s and ’60s along the Bay of Quinte on the Loyalist Parkway. A former secondary school teacher, his hobbies include reading, writing, birding, fishing, and photography. He enjoys connecting with his community by reading responses to his Kingstonist articles and roaming the fields and forests in the Kingston area with his two golden retrievers.

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