“We’re getting a lot of questions about farmers markets,” said Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief medical officer for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU), during his regular media teleconference. “I myself do believe that farmers’ markets sell essential items. They sell food.”
The challenge, Dr. Roumeliotis noted, is to develop a policy that would allow a farmers’ market to operate while also maintaining social distancing and other public health safety guidelines during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Farmers’ markets that operate outside could have wide spaces separating individual sellers’ booths, Dr. Roumeliotis noted, and limiting the number of people on site to browse when the market is open could also help avoid crowd-gathering situations. Farmers market staff could follow similar rules in place for grocery stores and other public-access businesses, which have staff manage traffic flow in and out of the building to avoid large numbers of people inside the premises.
“I think it’s important to support this (local) industry,” said Dr. Roumeliotis, adding that a farmers’ market is like any other small business that serves its community.
The EOHU is consulting with other regional health units and also with officials for municipalities and farmers market groups to develop a policy that would allow farmers markets to operate, with some restrictions.
“They would be limited to food products (for sale),” he said, adding that the protocol could be ready before the end of May.