As the wheels of business and society slowly begin to turn once more, the District of 100 Mile House council voted to adopt a COVID-19 re-opening policy at their regular meeting on Wednesday, May 27.
First drawn up at a special meeting on May 21, the council carried a decision to receive and approve the legislation. It lays out how the District of 100 Mile and its employees will interact with the community going forward and will provide a framework in the event of future pandemics or COVID-19 outbreaks.
While these plans for reopening are now being implemented, council also decided to keep some its facilities closed to the public including the municipal campground, Martin Exter Hall/Valley Room complex and all outdoor washrooms without handwash capabilities. However, at such time as all safety precautions and protocols are in place and the staff is trained the main office will reopen to the general public.
This new policy lays out the minimum standard employers must meet to reopen based on information from the Provincial Health Officer (PHO), the Ministry of Health, the Province of B.C. and WorkSafe B.C. Specifically, administration based the policy on the Hierarchy of Controls for COVID-19 as recommended by the PHO with it addressing physical distancing, engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment (PPE) which, when implemented together, will assist in mitigating potential hazards within the workplace.
The policy states the possibility of COVID-19 transmission will still continue and measures must be taken to limit this transition. These new policies should help protect both people and local health care systems from the impacts of this virus, should it reemerge.
“The current situation is neither sustainable or healthy bringing its own significant costs and damage to individuals, socially, emotionally and economically,” administration said in their introduction. “This will require the full engagement of individual citizens, key institutions and employers to hardwire these requirements into day-to-day practice, starting in May and then refining them over the next 12 to 18 months based on our go-forward experience on the pandemic.”
Returning fully to normal is projected to radically increase transmission, which is why the move instead has been to 60 per cent of normal which should see the transmission rate remain flat. This “new normal” as its called could last from anywhere to 12 to 18 months, depending on the reliability and availability of a vaccine.
The main goal of these new policies are to manage and reduce possible transmission of the virus which has been found to transfer more easily indoors especially in congregate settings. Droplet transmission, from when people sneeze or cough, has also been identified as an effective way to spread the virus, hence the increasing focus on mask-wearing.
Another form of transmission comes from people touching infected surfaces and then touching their eyes, mouth or face. As humans have a tendency to frequently touch their faces cleaning one’s hands regularly is an important way to fight the spread of COVID-19.
The policy went on to break down new practices that will reduce transmission by departments with each workspace required to post a list of their rules for public and employees to reference. The main points all employees must follow however are as follows:
- No handshaking
- Frequently wash your hands with soap and water and use hand sanitizer
- Avoid touching your face
- Cough/sneeze into your elbow or tissue and throw away
- Maintain reasonable physical distancing and much as possible
- Where physical distancing cannot be maintained, wear a non-medical mask
In the main office employees will be required to maintain social distancing, sanitize their workspaces, frequently wash their hands before and after breaks and an alternate work schedule will be put in place to ensure only three staff members are within the office at any one time. Anyone looking to enter the office will be required to sanitize their hands and will find places marked on the floor for them to stand in line and plexiglass across the counter.
Within the Council Chambers, the COVID-19 precautions will include dividing the room into sections that are at least two meters apart and sanitizing chairs and tables after each use. Some council and staff members will be attending meetings via Zoom to reduce the number of people the room and a larger public meeting may be held instead in larger venues, such as the Community Hall.
Within Community Service Department precautions are similar to the main office including frequent sanitation, social distancing and installation of plexiglass. In addition to frequent cleaning, the responsibility of all employees, they’ll be required to wear masks and gloves, like the main office, while working out in public and employee professional development will be done via webinars inline to reduce travel outside of the community.
The playground and water park will be reopening as the types of different surfaces that make up playground equipment and the fact that the virus degrades when exposed to the environment reduces the risk of transmission. The only restrictions in place will be allowing parents to decide whether their child should use the facilities and placing physical distancing signage in these areas. At picnic shelters, such signage will also be installed and the waste will be removed on a regular basis.
At public washrooms that have handwashing capabilities, physical distancing signage will be posted along with the number of people allowed in the washroom at one time. For cleaning, they plan to clean and disinfect high contact areas while wearing PPE at least twice a day that may have come into contact with bodily fluids or when visibly contaminated.