How businesses allowed to reopen today are implementing new safety measures
Ontario gave green light to select businesses including landscapers, construction sites
After closing his landscaping business nearly two months ago due to COVID-19, Craig Hutchinson is finally back to work today with about 20 jobs already scheduled. His company, Lawrence Park Complete Lawn Care, has lost about a month of busy season business.
"It's going to be hard for us to catch up for sure," Hutchinson said.
For the last few weeks Hutchinson and his health and safety team have been preparing for today. He's purchased personal protective equipment for his staff of about 50 and installed plexiglass in trucks.
For now, he's only allowing one person in a vehicle at a time and is bringing staff back gradually.
While some landscapers have been operating, Hutchinson said his choice to close led to both losing and gaining clients.
"We took it pretty seriously from the beginning," he said. "I felt like it was not just a legal duty but a moral duty to our clients but also to our staff."
Businesses permitted to begin operations
The province announced on Friday the following businesses are allowed to reopen or prepare to reopen under strict guidelines:
- Garden centres and nurseries with curbside pickup and delivery only.
- Lawn care and landscaping.
- Additional essential construction projects that include shipping and logistics; broadband, telecommunications, and digital infrastructure; any other project that supports the improved delivery of goods and services; municipal projects; colleges and universities; child-care centres; schools; and site preparation, excavation, and servicing for institutional, commercial, industrial and residential development.
- Automatic and self-serve car washes.
- Auto dealerships, open by appointment only.
- Golf courses may prepare their courses for the upcoming season, but not open to the public.
- Marinas may also begin preparations for the recreational boating season by servicing boats and other watercraft and placing boats in the water, but not open to the public. Boats and watercraft must be secured to a dock in the marina until public access is allowed.
Golf course ready to open, but wants further guidance
Royal Ashburn Golf Club co-owner Scott Paterson called the government's reopening announcement Friday "a relief," but is hoping for further information when it comes to opening publicly.
"We need to know what we need to do for power carts, if food and beverage will be allowed, can our driving range be open?" he said. "At this point we're looking for guidance."
Paterson said the club has done all it can to prepare — he's purchased sanitizer to spray golf carts and common areas and has some personal protective equipment for staff.
While the club will be encouraging people to pay ahead of time, Paterson plans to install shields at the cash register.
"There has to be very little staff interaction," he said.
Paterson said the course itself is ready to open since minimal staff have been allowed to work in order to maintain the grounds.
"We're ready to go. We need info and the green light and we're open," he said.
Paterson said he hopes golf courses can open to the public within the next two weeks.
"Golf is certainly a sport that people can play right now and still stay safe," he said. "Staying six feet from somebody outside on 150 acres is not a problem."
Contractors may need more time to implement protocols
The chair of the Ontario General Contractors Association (OGCA) said he was excited, yet caught off guard, when he learned many contractors can begin working again today.
Raymondo Mollica said he would have appreciated a bit more notice from the government because not all sites were able to enact a new protocol three days after the government's announcement Friday.
"The issue we're having is that we need to re-orientate every trade that comes through our sites, [for example], the proper protocols for maintaining the two metre distance," he said.
Mollica said all sites should be evaluating everyone for COVID-19 symptoms and ask whether they've potentially been exposed to the virus.
"The most important rule is disclosure," he said. "We need everyone to be honest."
He also said contact tracing must be in place to know if anyone who tests positive for the virus has potentially exposed anyone else.
Mollica said the province's list of newly-permitted construction appears to now include almost all sites that weren't deemed essential before. He said implementing the health and safety protocol may take an extra few days for all sites and some will gradually bring in tradespeople and employees.
He also said most contractors are requiring workers to wear a face covering on the job when maintaining a two-metre distance isn't possible.
"[We need] to make sure that we just don't start up the site willy-nilly and that we take care of all the proper protocols."
Chamber of commerce says confidence is key
The president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce said it's encouraging that some businesses can begin operating today but said reopening must be done gradually. Rocco Rossi said the province and employers must ensure employees and customers are safe.
"Confidence is going to be so incredibly important," Rossi said. "We need to know that there's tracking and tracing capabilities so if there are some spikes we can quickly put those fires out and we also need a significant amount more of PPE and the training to use it."
With select businesses reopening and operating today, the provincial government is reminding the public to continue practising physical distancing and to keep staying at home as much as possible.