Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); }

Common areas like elevators in small, shared living spaces can make social distancing difficult

zoff-photo/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Gabrielle Peters lives in a 23-storey apartment building and uses an elevator to get to and from her apartment.

In recent weeks, she has tried to ensure she is alone for the ride.

A wheelchair user with an autoimmune disease, Ms. Peters has for years been mindful of the potential health risks of shared spaces. These days, she is even more concerned, as the number of novel coronavirus cases in Canada continues to climb and health authorities urge people to keep their distance from one another.

Story continues below advertisement

“I am not sure how aware other tenants are,” Ms. Peters said in an interview this week, adding that she would like to see increased cleaning in the building and hand sanitizer at the elevators.

Along with millions of other Canadians who live in condo and apartment towers, Ms. Peters faces added challenges in reducing social contact and health risks. As cities have embraced more dense forms of housing, residents and building managers are grappling with questions of how to practise isolation in shared spaces.

“I am concerned that no one is looking at the impact of density in contained buildings," said Tony Gioventu, executive director of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.

“The reality check is – if you live in a single-detached dwelling and someone tests positive for coronavirus, it’s pretty easy to isolate them. But if they are in a condo building – and using elevators and walkways and other things – does that increase the risk?”

On Monday, the CHOA posted bulletins on how to conduct meetings electronically and advised managers to increase cleaning and to sterilize surfaces such as elevator buttons “several times daily.”

This week, after Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in the province, the Association of Condominium Managers of Ontario posted several notices on its website, including a Toronto Public Health bulletin about infection prevention and bulletins urging condo corporations to consider closing public amenities and postponing AGMs.

At least one Vancouver property manager has asked building residents to notify their building manager if they have been identified as a presumptive or confirmed case of COVID-19.

Story continues below advertisement

A March 12 memo to residents from Austeville Properties, posted on the company’s website, said such information would be kept on a “strictly confidential basis” and would allow the company to better support residents and visitors.

An Austeville manager did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A March 17 blog posting by law firm Gowling WLG advised Ontario condo corporations to “consider advising residents of known cases in the building without disclosing the identity of those involved,” saying that communicating general information would allow residents to take extra precautions.

Federal health guidelines on self-isolation include staying in a separate room and using a separate bathroom from others in the home, if possible, and keeping a two-metre distance.

Small, shared living spaces can make that difficult.

In such scenarios, people may adapt by eating meals at different times, cleaning common surfaces and wearing masks, said Yue Qian, an assistant professor in the University of British Columbia’s department of sociology.

Story continues below advertisement

People are using technology to shop for food and goods online and to communicate with friends and family, said Prof. Qian, who recently received federal research funding to look at the mental-health consequences of quarantine, and whose father has been under quarantine in Wuhan, China, since January.

Governments should pay attention to groups with special needs, including the elderly and people with disabilities, Prof. Qian said.

“The elderly may not be using technology and may not be that mobile in the first place – so how can their needs be met?”

Ms. Peters echoed those concerns.

She worries about the level of cleaning in common spaces, particularly elevators, and the potential risks of using shared laundry facilities.

She is also concerned about social isolation, adding that her building does not have the balconies that allowed residents in Italian cities to sing to one another in recent days.

Story continues below advertisement

“If you’re up on the 34th floor, you’re not talking to anybody but the wind,” she said.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

Coronavirus information
Coronavirus information
The Zero Canada Project provides resources to help you manage your health, your finances and your family life as Canada reopens.
Visit the hub

In the interests of public health and safety, our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access. However, The Globe depends on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe to globeandmail.com. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support.

Your subscription helps The Globe and Mail provide readers with critical news at a critical time. Thank you for your continued support. We also hope you will share important coronavirus news articles with your friends and family. In the interest of public health and safety, all our coronavirus news articles are free for anyone to access.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies