Masks, LTC houses will change the federal election campaign in 2021, says the doctor
Federal candidates must continue to mask themselves in the election and expect limited access to long-term care and retirement homes, according to the head of a public health unit in Ontario.
Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical officer of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, said this week that he believes the campaign will be very similar to the final federal election in 2019. Ontario is likely to leave step 3 of its reopening plan during the campaign, which is expected to begin later this month.
There will be significant differences, however, including candidates and volunteers wearing masks when they arrive on residents’ doorsteps.
Roumeliotis also said people need to avoid campaign rallies when they are sick, and he admitted that there was some uncertainty about the events.
“I think the masking is what we have to do because we don’t know everyone’s vaccination status,” said Roumeliotis.
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Further restrictions in LTC houses
Ontario’s guidelines for Step 3 currently limit indoor gatherings to 25 people and outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people. These boundaries would disappear if the province left this step.
Nursing and retirement homes are the main obstacle to campaigns seeking the voices of the elderly. These facilities are most at risk of death or serious illness as the threat of a fourth wave and the delta variant persists into late summer and early fall.
“There is no open season in long-term care. There are still some restrictions that you would have to adhere to,” said Roumeliotis.
He expects a number of campaign restrictions to complement existing nursing home visitor policies.
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Changes on election day
New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Yukon have already held provincial and territorial elections during the pandemic, while Nova Scotia will vote on August 17th.
Only Newfoundland and Labrador faced issues due to a surge in cases of COVID-19 that extended their voting deadline and then only shifted to postal ballot.
The pandemic will affect the election day and the workings of the process and the It takes a few days to count the votes because of postal ballot papers, said Chief Electoral Officer Stephane Perrault, as was the case in the US election last fall.
The way people cast their ballots will also change starting in 2019, but Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce said ballot boxes could be put back in schools on Wednesday, where almost half were in 2019.
Election day output always takes place on a Monday, unless it is a public holiday, that will be when the kids are back in class. Lecce said the government was following the advice of public health experts in working with Elections Canada and Elections Ontario.
Elections Canada said there will be plexiglass barriers and trained personnel at each polling site, along with contact tracing, while limiting the number of voters who can be inside at any one time.
September is usually a warm month, but rain or snow can affect how many line up outside to vote.
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At a June Procedure and House Affairs Committee meeting, Perreault told MPs that polling station staff do not need to be vaccinated. Staffing could also be an issue, given the high percentage of seniors who normally work on election day and the potential for civil servants to log out in 2021.