By Dean McCabe
The Government of Canada has advised that self-isolation for 14 days is required for ALL travelers coming from outside Canada, even if no symptoms are present.
As per https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/travel-advice/,
“Travelers who have returned from anywhere else outside Canada, including the United States, should:
Self-isolate (i.e. stay at home and avoid close contact with others, including those in their home) for a total of 14 days.
Call Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 or their primary care provider’s office if they experience symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing).
Call ahead prior to visiting any healthcare provider and let them know about travel history and symptoms (e.g. fever, cough, difficulty breathing) so that they can make special arrangements to see you quickly, provide testing, and ensure that they use proper infection control measure”
Many travelers returning home from other countries may have questions about self-isolation protocols and what that means for them and others in their household (including pets) in order to restrict the spread of COVID-19.
Self-isolation in condominium buildings means staying in your suite and avoiding use of common areas of the building. As much as the common areas are an extension of your home, they are used by many others as well.
The Common Areas of the building include Corridors, Stairwells, Garbage Rooms (on each floor), lobby, mailroom, exercise room, media rooms, amenity area/library, courtyards, common terraces and underground garages.
Self-isolation also affects those you share your home with, who will be required to self-isolate with you. Please go to: https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/publications/diseases-conditions/covid-19-how-to-isolate-at-home.html to learn what to do to protect others in your home.
Below we have listed some suggested ways that management and security can assist those that are that doing their part to protect others by self-isolating. These are ideas gathered from a number of different sites, and specific suggestions may vary based on different factors including staffing, building layout and cleaning resources.
Suggestions to assist those self-isolating:
I am proud to say that the suggestions for assistance have been as wide and varied as the types, sizes and styles of condos.
Encourage those in self-isolation to contact your Security/Concierge so that othercondominium service providers can develop ways to assist them. In many communities, Owners & Residents have offered to assist picking up supplies as well!
If you would like Security to get your mail, Canada Post can be asked to provide it to building staff and we will call you and leave it at your suite door.
Encourage residents to leave garbage outside their door in a non-leaking bag at a pre-determined time (say 10am weekdays) so that cleaners can pick-up and dispose of it safely. Cleaners can wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment including gloves and masks) and owners can be offered heavy duty garbage bags to prevent any leakage.
If you are self-isolating and receive a delivery, Concierge will give you a call and leave it outside your suite door.
Some managers has taken to drafting motivational messages reminding owners that their isolation is helping stem the spread of this virus.
Setting up a buddy system or encouraging wellness calls from Security or Concierge to residents that are self-isolating.
For others who are NOT in self-isolation, we have all been asked to practice “social distancing”.
This means leaving a 2 metre (6 foot) space between yourself and others.
Group activities are not encouraged at this time as a result. As the incidence of COVID-19 continues to increase in Ontario, new guidelines are being implemented to help curb the spread of the virus now that “community transmission” cannot be ruled out.
Dr. De Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto advises “Every opportunity to avoid interactions with others helps to prevent the spread of this disease. Every interaction avoided helps to flatten the curve. If you can, stay home, help out our city by reducing your interaction with others. Every little bit, every effort counts.”
As a result of these recommendations, many condos have taken steps to minimize person to person contact and control the flow of people through common spaces, including:
Exercise rooms, media rooms and party rooms have been closed in many condos.
If the elevator is in use, suggest residents wait for the next one, to maintain social distancing requirements
If you receive a delivery of food or other items, you may be required to pick it up from the front lobby or Concierge Desk to prevent the flow of traffic through the building. Those in self-isolation will need to have items delivered to their doors.
Condos need your assistance to please pick up deliveries from Concierge as soon as possible. More items are being delivered to condos and space is limited. Many condos are investigating the installation of automated parcel lockers to eliminate the need for others to handle your parcels. This may be a great longer-term solution, but in the short-term, owners can help by picking up packages quickly and with minimum contact.
How can condominiums help those that are financially impacted?
The full financial impact of the current crisis may not be realized for some time, but many banks, landlords, governments and companies have stepped up to try and help those that may require assistance.
Condominiums need to continue to pay expenses such as salaries, utilities and contractors who are providing necessary repair services. As a result, condominiums need to continue to receive the maintenance fees from owners in order to pay those bills and maintain cash flow. This is a good example of why condominiums should carry a surplus of 1-2 months’ fees.
Owners may need time to meet their financial obligations and condominiums that are in a healthy financial position can take some steps to assist:
Revise your collections policy to apply all payments to the oldest arrears. This will allow owners to potentially buy some time to catch up before facing legal fees related to a lien process.
Note: It is important to understand and explain to owners that the legislated lien timelines still exist. Click Here to link to an excellent letter from Shibley Righton asking the government to extend the deadlines to register liens to 6 months during this crisis.
In an effort to assist those that find themselves in financial difficulty, The Meritus Group has announced that, while we must still issue Notice of Lien forms to enable the condominium communities we represent to protect their lien rights, we will not be charging for this additional service and will waive all fees. While it is a small gesture for those facing financial hardships created by this crisis, it is something that we can do as a corporate and community citizen to not pile additional costs on those already struggling.
Boards must consider their own condominium’s financial position and plan ahead 30 to 60 days. Difficult decisions may be required that challenge the usual sound wisdom of the Act.
I am happy to share that on March 20, 2020 the Ontario Government removed certain legislated deadlines, (at the time of writing condo lawyers are reviewing the Order in Council to determine how it applies to condos need to register liens). If applicable this will mean that owners will still owe the fees, but condominiums will have greater flexibility to work with owners on payment plans for those financially impacted by the current crisis.
Meritus Group is currently developing a policy for Boards that would allow payment plans with affected owners while still protecting the conductibility of all maintenance fees.
I hope that this article has given you even 1 idea of how your condominium community can weather the current crisis – and maybe, just maybe – we can emerge as a stronger, more connected, more compassionate society.
Thank you for considering the health and safety of your neighbours.