Large multidepartmental stores must follow extra capacity rules in Eastern Ontario.
Large multidepartmental stores must follow extra capacity rules in Eastern Ontario.

Extra COVID rules for large retailers after complaints  

Stephen Jeffery
EAP
Retail and grocery stores with multiple departments will need to implement new measures to control customer numbers from Saturday under a new regional health order.

In addition to controlling numbers of patrons inside a store, retailers will be required to post and enforce a maximum number of patrons for each individual department. The Section 22 order will come into force on Saturday, December 19 from 12.01 a.m. after numerous complaints to the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) about inadequate line and crowd control inside large multidepartmental stores.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis said the new rules would help limit overcrowding in specific sections of stores, such as the grocery or pharmacy areas. Business owners would be required to post signs clearly showing the capacity of each department, while reminding patrons either gathering together or walking against the flow of directional arrows of the rules.

The maximum number of patrons was to be determined by the square footage available to customers inside a department, as well as the number of staff available to enforce capacity limits. Dr. Roumeliotis said the EOHU and other enforcement agencies would boost inspections of retailers.

“With holiday shopping, we’re seeing large crowds in many stores, which increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19 at this critical time,” he said. “Putting measures in place to prevent spread of COVID-19 also protects our local businesses by helping us avoid business closures, a last resort to control the spread of the virus.”

Orange zone remains

The EOHU area will remain in the orange “restrict” zone through to at least Christmas Day. While the region’s seven day rolling average pushed into the red “control” zone during the week, other factors, including the R and positivity rates, remained within the orange areas of the province’s framework.

The week ending on December 18 had seen day-on-day double digit new cases, with the exception of Friday, which had seven. Eight people were in hospital as of Friday, December 18, with two in intensive care. Thirty-two people have died due to COVID since the start of the pandemic in the area.

Outbreaks

The Prescott and Russell Residence outbreak remained stable as of Friday, with no changes in numbers in recent days. Eighty-five of the 109 resident cases had been resolved, as had 67 of the 68 staff cases. Fifteen deaths at the residence have been attributed to COVID since the outbreak began in October.

Two other outbreaks – at Valoris Residence in Hammond and Champlain Long Term Care in L’Orignal – reported cases in staff members only, with no residents testing positive so far. Testing continued at the two sites.

An outbreak continued at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Isidore, with cases in four students and one staff member. Other school cases included four students at École élémentaire catholique Saint-Viateur, and one case each at École élémentaire catholique Embrun - Pav. Saint-Jean/Pav. La Croisée, École élémentaire publique De la Rivière Castor, and Mother Teresa Elementary School.

The region

As the 292 active cases reported in the EOHU area on Friday afternoon, 147 were in Prescott-Russell communities, including:

  • 35 in Russell;
  • 29 in Casselman;
  • 27 in The Nation;
  • 22 in Clarence-Rockland;
  • 18 in Hawkesbury;
  • 10 in Alfred and Plantagenet;
  • 6 in Champlain, and;
  • 0 in East Hawkesbury.