Covid-19 in Condos - May 1, 2020
Happy May Day!
Thank you to everyone who has modified their daily/weekly schedules and who continue to comply with governmental and public health agency requests that we continue to practice social (physical) distancing and self-isolation to flatten the curve.
It has been yet another busy week for Condominium Covid-10 related activity.
AMENDED EMERGENCY ORDER
On April 24, 2020 the Ontario Provincial Government amended the Emergency Order (which had originally been enacted on March 17, 2020) to better support corporations, including Condominium Corporations during the Covid-19 outbreak.
The Emergency Order has been amended to:
Permit corporations governed under the Condominium Act, 1998 (Condo Act) to hold AGM meetings and board meetings virtually, notwithstanding current requirements or restrictions;
Permit electronic voting at AGMs regardless of current requirements or restrictions
Extend the time period in which corporations governed under the Condo Act must hold annual meetings; and
Address additional matters related to meetings for corporations under the Condo Act such as the re-issuing of notices to hold a meeting virtually after a notice of meeting has already been sent.
These amendments are retroactive to March 17, 2020 and are for the duration of the Emergency Order. The amended Order also applies to other Corporations under the CA, OBCA, CCA. The text of the full emergency order can be found here.
ESSENTIAL WORK ENFORCEMENT
The City of Ottawa ByLaw Enforcement Office, who are responsible for the enforcement of the Provincial Emergency Order provisions, including matters related to essential work classifications, confirmed that as of May 1, 2020 they will allow landscaping contractors to attend to work related to law care, including grass cutting, aeration and de-thatching. Other essential landscaping work is also allowed, provided it is strictly related to sanitation and safety (cleaning out leaves and winter debris for example, to prevent accumulation on top of or in roadway drains and catch basins, which could potentially lead to flooding and backups.
Other landscaping tasks which are purely aesthetic in nature (planting annuals, dividing perennials, weeding and mulching) as well as hard landscaping projects such as retaining walls, and installation of new fences are not deemed by the City of Ottawa to be essential services at the moment and may not proceed.
HVAC and COVID
New facts about COVID-19 are released every day and we continue to remain in contact with our professional partners in the HVAC sector to constantly adapt to the latest guidance available. With almost everyone staying at home during this crisis, condominiums are occupied to capacity and it is more important than ever to ensure that the air quality, temperature control, and plumbing systems are operating as well as possible.
After the publication of an article in the National Post last weekend which discussed the possibility of the virus being circulated by ventilation systems which was previously considered unlikely, we reached out to our professional partners in the industry to request that information be made available to address Owners’ concerns about how ventilation systems work in a typical highrise multi-residential building. This information was issued by email to those communities where information was made available to us.
It was confirmed that there are multiple components to the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning) system in each building, each of them working in tandem to ensure that under normal conditions, the air in your suite is not recirculated or mixed with air from other suites.
A typical system includes Make-Up-Air Units (MUA) located on the roof. They take outside fresh air through a set of filters and distribute it to the hallways on each floor. This slightly pressurizes the hallways and prevents air from inside the suites from flowing into the hallway. They are 100% fresh air with no recirculation. Guidance from various authorities recommend bringing fresh filtered air into your building and we therefore continue to run your MUA units as normal to keep hallway pressurization all the time.
A typical system also includes in-unit fan coils. This equipment recirculates air within your suite. It does not draw air from other suites. There is some online information that the corona virus can be transported via HVAC systems. Since the fan coil unit does not connect with other suites, it would not be advantageous to shut down your fan coil unit. In fact, the temperature control and air filtration offered by the fan coil unit is important to the well being of the people in the suite. We recommend that the fan coil unit stays in operation.
Finally, in typical systems each suite has one or more exhaust fans which draw air from the bathrooms and kitchen areas and rejects this stale air outside. It is recommended that these systems remain in operation.
The American Society Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the agency that sets the standards for best practices. The following link contains information that we use to set our protocols and recommendations. In addition, the European equivalent agency also provides excellent technical information for our industry.
We are grateful to Mr. Mark Csiffary, P.Eng, President of Baxtec Mechanical Services for his valuable assistance in this matter.
PRESUMPTIVELY COVID-19 POSITIVE?
If you are not feeling well and are concerned that you have contracted the virus, please take the Province’s self assessment tool - available here.
After completing a short questionnaire you will be provided instructions on how to proceed with getting tested or how to isolate during your illness.
INCREASED CLEANING SCHEDULES
The cleaning and disinfecting of door handles, elevator buttons, stairwell railings etc has been increased in all of our buildings. However, as is the case in any other place you attend, please keep in mind that even with increase and supplemental cleaning services, many of the commonly touched surfaces are still only cleaned 2 to 6 times per day.
It is wise to limit your travel through common elements as much as possible and to treat every surface you touch as if it had last been touched by someone with Covid-19.
With the majority of Condominium Owners and Residents now sheltering in place, there has been a significant increase in the incidence of residential fires, including in high rise condominiums over the last 6 weeks. At the risk of being repetitive - please accept our weekly reminder concerning fire safety. Your unit door, all amenity and stairwell doors should remain securely latched when not in use.
Whether you are a Twitter-renowned chef/cook/baker (I have read your Twitter feeds…) or you are just now developing a new skill/passion for cooking please always be careful. Don’t leave things on the stove unattended…. It takes but a moment of inattention to cause a catastrophic outcome (more catastrophic even, than my OWN cooking for example…but I won’t bore you with the details...)
In our communities where smoking is still permitted on balconies - please do not throw cigarette butts over the balcony railing. Drifting lit cigarette butts have been the cause of several balcony fires over the last several years.
In the event of fire alarms at your building, please follow the instructions from the Fire Plan (this information has been distributed at various times over the years). If you require another copy of the instructions, please email me at email@example.com. Most importantly, if you are required to evacuate the building, please remember to practice proper physical distancing measures (6 feet apart at all times).
For Owners and Residents who have opted not to occupy their suite during the pandemic crisis, you may wish to communicate with your insurance carrier to confirm whether they have special requirements for the inspection of vacant units, in order to safeguard your rights under the policy in the event of a claim.
With everyone focusing on physical illness and Covid-19 positive cases, it is easy to forget about mental health. It is always OK to not be OK. But it is even MORE ok at the moment! If you are having trouble coping - please reach out. The Ottawa Distress Centre can be reached by phone at 613-238-3311 or online at www.dcottawa.on.ca.
LINKS TO VARIOUS GOVERNMENTAL AND PUBLIC HEALTH WEBSITES
For links to various website providing vetted reliable information - please refer to our previous blog posts.
You may also wish to visit the Wilson Blanchard Management Blog here.
They have an excellent compilation of the various resources currently available to Condominiums in Ontario.
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if you find we may be of assistance. Martin and I appreciate your ongoing support as we all adapt to a new way of doing business in the post Covid-19 world….
Take care, stay happy / healthy and wash your hands!
J (the Den Mother)
DES Services Inc.
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