COVID-19 and apartment living

Jul 21, 2020 | CV19, Health, Housing, Impact Updates, informed

You’ve probably seen and read plenty of general information on COVID-19 safety precautions, information on hand washing, wearing masks on public transportation and in stores, as well as social distancing. But what if you live in an apartment or other group setting, and social distancing is a challenge?

People living in
apartments face additional challenges when it comes to staying safe and
practicing prevention. Common spaces like lobbies, elevators, mailbox clusters,
garbage chutes, laundry rooms and indoor and outdoor recreation areas all make
it more difficult to practice prevention.

Here are some tips
and suggestions on personal hygiene, managing your apartment and what to expect
from your landlord.

What you can do for
personal hygiene in addition to hand washing for 20 seconds and avoiding close
contact with those who are sick:

  • Avoid touching common surfaces others touch in
    public places and in your apartment building or common areas as best you can.
  • Don't share food or drinks.
  • When taking elevators avoid touching your face
    after pushing elevator buttons.  If there
    isn’t enough space in the elevator to stay 6 ft apart, wait for the next
    elevator. See Ottawa Public Health’s Elevator etiquette for more.
  • Strictly limit time spent in high risk settings, including closed
    spaces with poor ventilation and crowded places with large numbers of people
  • Wear a non-medical mask or face covering in situations where physical
    distancing may not be possible.
  • Stock up on some basic items for the possibility that you may have
    to quarantine in your apartment for two weeks.
  • Find ways to
    socialize at a distance by talking from one balcony to another. Or place chairs
    in the hall to talk to your neighbour.

Cleaning and disinfecting your apartment

  • Try to keep your apartment neat, clean and organized to maintain
    a healthy environment.
  • Clean regularly and sanitize often using items like Lysol spray and Clorox
    wipes on “high touch" surfaces including countertops, tabletops,
    doorknobs, nightstands, bathroom fixtures, toilets, refrigerator handles,
    kitchen faucets, light switches, TV remotes, cell phones, computer keyboards
    and tablets.

See: How to Clean and disinfect your
Apartment During Coronavirus

someone in your apartment gets sick:

  • Stay home and away from others if you are sick, even if symptoms are
  • Make sure the sick person in quarantined
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve
  • Keep two metres apart from others who are outside of your close contact
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Wear a mask
  • Clean the bathroom daily
  • Keep the apartment ventilated, if possible
  • Wipe down tabletops, doorknobs and phones with
    a good disinfectant several times a day
  • Wash bed linens in hot water and don’t handle them too much afterwards. Rather,
    hold them at arms length when putting them away or back on the bed.
  • Call before seeing your doctor.
  • Protect vulnerable family, friends and contacts by finding virtual ways
    to connect and support those who at higher risk for severe outcomes of

What building management
can do:

  •  Make
    hand sanitizer available at the front desk, the gym, by mailboxes
  • Clean a lot, disinfect commonly touched
    surfaces at the front desk, lobby restroom, mailroom, game rooms, elevators,
    door handles and delivery areas several times a day.
  • Have deliveries left in the lobby for pickup
    not taken to apartments
  • Close the garbage, and make sure all garbage
    cans and lobby waste baskets have working lids and are kept closed.
  • Encourage staff to stay home if they are sick,
    assuring them they will not lose jobs.
  • Encourage employees, residents and visitors to
    report if they believe they may have contracted COVID-19, especially if they
    have used common areas.
  • Landlords who
    are selling tenant-occupied homes are strongly advised to follow the guidance
    of the Real Estate
    Council of Ontario
     and avoid in-person showings. Landlords are subject to
    the Human
    Rights Code and have a duty to accommodate
    protected grounds, including people with disabilities. For example, conducting
    an in-person showing when a tenant has an immune-compromising condition could
    lead to a complaint under the Code.
  • Risk mitigation tool for outdoor recreation
    spaces and activities operating during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Cleaning and disinfecting public spaces during
  • Follow Province of Ontario guidelines for reopening of indoor and outdoor recreational facilities
    such as pools.

Group living settings

In group
living settings many people who aren’t in the same family unit live together. They may live there for a short or long period of time. These
settings may include vulnerable and most at risk populations who have a higher
chance for serious illness. You should adapt public health measures for your
setting to prevent COVID-19 from entering and lower the chance of it spreading.

Examples of these settings include:

  • closed settings, such as:
    • residential care
    • correctional facilities
    • long-term care facilities
  • group homes for people with disabilities
  • shelters for people experiencing homelessness

Learn more about the measures you can take in group living settings.

Additional resources

Ottawa Public Health:

Dwelling Resources

Multilingual Resources for Diverse Communities
During COVID-19


National Collaboration Centre for Environmental Health:

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