Amendment looks to make physical distancing mandatory in CK

© Can Stock Photo / franckito

Additional measures to prevent community transmission of COVID-19 might soon become mandatory in Chatham-Kent if approved by council during Monday night’s meeting.

Council passed a mandatory mask bylaw in Chatham-Kent in August and since then, most residents and businesses have been compliant, according to a municipal report. However, based on scientific evidence and measures taken by different public health units in Ontario, bylaw amendments will be brought to council in order to make physical distancing and the provision of hand sanitizer in Chatham-Kent mandatory.

The amendments listed in the municipal report have already been stated by health officials as best practices to avoid potential transmission of COVID-19, however, a vote from council could make them mandatory, starting September 18 at 12:01 a.m.

During a media conference this week, Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby said enforcing physical distancing in public areas, if approved, will be difficult.

“[It’ll be] tough to enforce but we know that is the most effective measure that there is and if we’re going to mandate other types of behaviours, we might as well mandate the one that is the most effective,” said Colby.

As stated in the report, there are some exemptions to the physical distancing amendment, like in certain settings where it’s not feasible to stay two metres apart. If passed, the amendment would only apply to those outside of one’s household or social circle.

Another component in the report involves the requirement for business operators to provide hand sanitizer, with an alcohol content of no less than 70 per cent, at the entrances and exits of an establishment. For the most part, Colby said this is something most businesses have been already been doing.

The amendments going to council also clarify the grey area of wearing masks when it comes to public transit and places of worship. If approved, masks will be mandatory not only on public transit vehicles but on CKTransit’s property as well which includes shelters and stations.

During religious ceremonies, it’s recommended that masks be worn while indoors and only be temporarily removed when required, for example, when eating as part of a religious ritual.

Public health officials reported just one active case of COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent this week but that increased to two on Friday afternoon. Nonetheless, Colby said he’s not “relaxing in any way” considering the municipality previously saw a low number of cases before but then there was a surge.

“I’m not relaxing but I’m very glad that the number [of active cases] is one instead of 100,” he said. “We’ll stay on duty and handle whatever comes our way.”