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The Action Committee on Court Operations in Response to COVID-19 has released this document to provide guidance on protecting court personnel and court users and general practices for cleaning and disinfecting.
This document is intended as overall general guidance, and is not intended to replace protocols developed at the level of individual courts and courthouses. This guidance is advisory only and is not intended to replace applicable health and safety laws and regulations, nor does following this guidance ensure compliance with those laws and regulations. Awareness of, and compliance with legal responsibilities must form an integral part of court operations in response to COVID-19.
Guidance on Protecting Court Personnel and Court Users
- Follow guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the local public health authority.
- Develop written procedures outlining all of the preventative measures that are being taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure and make sure court personnel and court users know what they are.
- Require court personnel or court users who are experiencing symptoms, have been in contact with someone suspected of having or confirmed to have COVID-19, are waiting for COVID-19 test results, or have travelled outside of Canada in the past 14 days, to stay and self-isolate. Follow the Public Health Agency of Canada’s steps for self-assessment (https://www.canada.ca/coronavirus) and its related recommendations.
- Limit the number of people that can access court facilities – including designated workspaces – at any time and post maximum occupancy notices so they are clearly visible. Designate personnel to monitor occupancy levels.
- Screen court personnel and court users as they enter court facilities.
- Wherever possible and subject to applicable legislation, collect basic information on all persons who enter the court facility, to support contact tracing efforts by the local public health authority as needed.
- Ensure that all court personnel and court users wash their hands when entering the court facility. Recommend that everyone frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol, especially between activities that involve physical contact with common or high touch surfaces or close contact with others.
- Provide hand sanitizer at all entrances and exits, on desks and tables and at occupied workstations. Ensure that hand hygiene stations are easy to access by everyone, including persons with physical disabilities.
- Implement and monitor physical distancing measures and other controls such as Plexiglas barriers or dividers where possible to protect court personnel and court users. While such barriers do not replace the use of non-medical masks, they can provide an additional layer of protection.
- Ensure proper ventilation in all work areas and other occupied indoor areas, and reduce noise levels as much as possible so people do not need to yell or shout. In particular, to improve ventilation:
- Open windows and doors for a few minutes at a time during the day as weather permits and provided this does not pose a safety risk;
- Run the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) fan continuously at a low speed to increase air movement and filtration;
- Adjust building ventilation systems and air conditioning units to keep rooms cool rather than using powerful portable cooling fans that might increase the spread of COVID-19;
- Limit the use of demand-controlled ventilation; keep the system running at the optimal setting;
- Increase filtration efficiency to the highest level appropriate for the ventilation system. Clean or change air filters regularly as recommended by the manufacturer;
- Consult an HVAC professional to ensure the HVAC system is suitable for the setting, activities, number of occupants and length of time the space is occupied, and before making any changes to the system;
- If possible, run systems for two hours at maximum outside airflow before and after the rooms and/or building are occupied;
- If possible, run bathroom exhaust fans continuously if they are vented to the outside;
- Consider the use of portable high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters only in situations where enhancing natural or mechanical ventilation is not possible and when physical distancing can be achieved. Consult an experienced professional before using these devices.
- Promote the proper wearing of well-constructed, well-fitting non-medical masks (NMMs) by court personnel and court users as advised by the local public health authority, and provide clear instructions on how to safely put on, wear and remove masks. When warranted by the local epidemiology and rate of transmission, the wearing of NMMs may be recommended at all times for court users and personnel, except when these would impede court proceedings or when a person is unable to wear a NMM due to young age or medical reasons such as difficulty breathing or being unable to easily take off a mask due to illness or disability.
- Implement measures to accommodate and protect court personnel or court users when NMMs cannot reasonably be worn or should be removed to ensure the integrity of court proceedings, for example by providing face shields and installing Plexiglas barriers or other engineering controls.
- Promote proper respiratory etiquette, such as covering the mouth and nose with flexed elbow or sleeve when coughing and sneezing. If tissues are used, dispose immediately and wash hands.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment frequently following the manufacturer’s instructions, or with a bleach solution.
- Develop a schedule for cleaning and disinfecting all high touch surfaces, equipment, and shared spaces.