News

Covid 19 Policy at Horne Coupar LLP – May 21, 2020

May 26, 2020 Category News

OVERVIEW AND PERSPECTIVE

The firm has been relatively proactive in developing a COVID-19 policy from the initial email of March13, 2020 and subsequent updates.

It is important to address our situation on Vancouver Island in a comparative context.  We have been as successful as any Western jurisdiction in containing the first wave of the virus.  Our new case count on May 19th was two for the entire province (and only a few cases on VI over the last few weeks).  As important, intensive care occupancy has been steadily falling for a month or more.  We should continue under the able guidance of Dr. Henry to be well-positioned to deal with any subsequent outbreaks particularly given our insular geography and low population density even in urban areas.  Moreover, our office is a relatively safe environment with good air circulation and low density.  For example, our density is about a third to a fourth of the minimum density required for supermarkets.  This does not mean relaxing our vigilance but simply reminds us that we are in a static and relatively safe situation for the time being.  Our public health officials do expect, however, that there will be some level of resurgence from our current level of containment so  it  is critical that we do not get complacent in the interim.  Dr. Henry advised this morning that this will likely not involve blanket closures but a targeted response based on an analysis of what suppression measures are most effective.  So, even if we go through a cycle or two of lift and suppress, our return to a new normal should still make headway.

We are now required by the provincial government to formalize our policy in a single document and post it on the premises.  The actual checklist on WorkSafe BC runs to 9 pages with some of the suggested content not applicable to our circumstances.  Staff consultation is also mandated and Cherie McGuire will direct any concerns or suggestions anyone might have to the partners.  The following is a summary of our policies to date together with some additional measures:

  1. Illness

As previously advised, if any member of the firm is experiencing any one or more symptoms of COVID-19 that person must not attend at the office.  The symptom list for COVID-19 has been expanding rapidly and attached hereto as Appendix 1 is the most recent iteration of that list from the Centre for Disease Control in British Columbia.  Because this list is so comprehensive and the evidence clear that the virus can be transmitted by mildly affected or asymptomatic individuals there is little doubt that  it is insidious and opportunistic such that we must err on the side of caution in ensuring that any person who is a potential carrier of the virus should not attend the office.  This, it is generally agreed, is the single most important measure in ensuring that we do not become the source of an outbreak.   Our policy, as previously indicated, is that a person with any potential symptom of COVID-19 (including simply feeling unwell) should call 811 to determine if testing for COVID-19 is appropriate in their circumstances.  If a person tests negative or is not directed for testing he or she should not return to the office until all symptoms have abated.  If a return to the office occurs within 10 days of the onset of symptoms then a mask (or face shield) should be worn for the duration of the 10 day period.  This is a precautionary requirement predicated on the following:

–           there is a significant false negative test rate

–           a mildly symptomatic individual may not be directed to a test

–           wearing a mask until the expiry of the ten day period is not particularly burdensome given the magnitude of the risk.  See appendix 2 for instructions.

–           ensuring that other employees (and clients) feel more comfortable with a “back up” level of prevention of transmission

–           while our present level of threat remains extremely low policies should be in place now in the event the threat level increases.

The firm does not wish potential financial hardship to influence any person’s decision whether to attend at or when to return to the office so that if this is a concern for any individual that person should be in touch with an administration partner to discuss his or her situation.

  1. Alternative Client Contact

While it is certainly permissible for any client to attend at the office either for an initial consultation or a document signing, we will continue to offer alternative means of communication to each client until further notice.  This may involve teleconferencing, video conferencing, execution of documents outside the office and any other practical arrangements concluded with the client.

  1. Physical Distancing Measures Within the Office

As you know, we have instituted this practice from the outset of the public health guidance in that respect.  Whenever possible, stay 6 ft. away from any person within the office and minimize the duration of face-to-face discussions with any individual.  Windows should generally be left open to dissipate stale air in which the virus can linger.

We have also instituted a prevailing counter clockwise flow of traffic within the office, which in practice means entering the coffee and lunchroom area through the hallway door and departing that area towards John’s office.

Obviously, there should be no congregation in the coffee machine area and the occupants of the lunchroom should be limited to 3 persons at any given time.  This, along with our premises occupancy rate, has been posted as directed by Worksafe BC.

  1. Sanitary Practices

Guidance released by the CDC (Atlanta) Tuesday suggested that the principal source of infection remains person to person contact with contagion from hard surfaces less significant.  So vigilance, yes, paranoia no.

We will until further notice continue to principally utilize the library for client attendances ensuring that it is cleaned both before and after any such attendance.  Portable plexiglass screens may be deployed at the front desk or for individual office use.  Hand sanitizers are deployed throughout the office and all washroom facilities are posted with handwashing instructions.

As much as possible, individuals should limit their contact with high touch surfaces and endeavour to clean such surfaces after touch, e.g. doors, counters, coffee machines, photocopiers and station partitions.  In furtherance of this objective we will be removing the doors from the kitchen cupboards in the coffee area.  As well, reception staff have been instructed to leave hand sanitizer by the keys to the washrooms and to spray the keys on their return.

As well, please exercise care when accessing cutlery or plates to ensure that you touch only what you remove.  In a similar vein, new pens will continue to be made available to clients for signing documents until further notice.

  1. Remote Work

As previously advised, the chief provincial health officer confirmed some weeks ago now that our social interaction can be increased from the 30% range experienced during the peak of COVID-19 infection rate to 60% with 80% reintroducing the risk of a second spike of infections.  However, those individuals who are at a higher risk due to their medical circumstances may make arrangements to continue to work remotely.

The partners.

 

Appendix 1

SYMPTOMS

Watch for symptoms of COVID-19 that can appear up to 14 days after being exposed to the virus.

Symptoms of COVID-19

The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar to other respiratory illnesses including the flu and common cold. They include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sore throat and painful swallowing
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Loss of sense of smell
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

*Average normal body temperature taken orally is about 37°C. For more on normal body temperature and fevers, see HealthLinkBC’s information for children age 11 and younger and for people age 12 and older.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Sometimes people with COVID-19 have mild illness, but their symptoms may suddenly worsen in a few days. People infected with COVID-19 may also experience gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea and vomiting a few days after the onset of the above symptoms. It you only have gastrointestinal symptoms you may not have COVID-19.

Appendix 2

Guide to safe use of face masks as recommended by the World Health Organization:

  • Before putting on a mask, clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Cover mouth and nose with mask and make sure there are no gaps between your face and the mask.
  • Avoid touching the mask while using it; if you do, clean your hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Replace the mask with a new one as soon as it is damp and do not re-use single-use masks.
  • To remove the mask: remove it from behind (do not touch the front of mask); discard immediately in a closed bin; clean hands with alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

From a more local source:  once your mask is on, think of the outside as a piece of raw chicken. Don’t touch, but if you do, sanitise your hands. ☺