Friday, March 20, 2020
Dear Shaar Family,
The safety and security of our Shaar Hashomayim community has been at the heart of our response to the C0VID-19 crisis as we do our part to flatten the curve and minimize its spread. Many of you contacted me regarding a wedding that took place on our premises on Thursday, March 12, where a guest has subsequently tested positive for coronavirus. I wish to provide you with context and more information.
It is critical to remember that the situation has evolved rapidly. In the space of less than a week public safety measures have become increasingly severe. On the afternoon of Thursday, March 12, the Quebec government suggested that we restrict all public gatherings to 250 people. A day later the Premier called for the closing of all Houses of Worship, schools and universities – in fact we had already announced that morning that we would be closing. Two days later the closings were extended to other public facilities. By the start of this week it had become clearer that social distancing is the best approach to minimizing the spread of the virus, and that we should do our best to restrict public gatherings altogether.
In developing our response, the Shaar Hashomayim has followed the lead of the government and public health authorities and consulted with infectious disease physicians.
With regards to the wedding on March 12th, it is important to note that Premier Legault only announced his recommendation that events be restricted to 250 people that afternoon. In fact, the celebration was just about to get underway – the bridal party was having photographs taken - when we learned of his position. We simply did not have enough time to adjust.
Upon learning of the diagnosis we have been in touch with public health authorities, and our understanding is that they are following up with people who may have been exposed to the virus at the celebration.
I also wish to emphasize that the wedding was a rental of our facilities, and our clergy were not present. At no time did any guest enter our kitchen or anywhere other than the public spaces of the building. Most importantly, we have instructed our employees who were present at that wedding to quarantine and be alert for symptoms.
At the same time, I wish to reassure you that from that event onwards we followed the attendance restrictions established by the authorities. We hosted another wedding last Sunday, and we denied people entry into the celebration to ensure that there were never more than 250 people in the room including guests, wait staff, security and entertainers. We even turned people away.
Public authorities as well as the medical specialists we consulted advise the risk of the virus spreading to our staff is minimal. Nonetheless we are not taking any risks. As part of our commitment to helping the vulnerable, we delivered over 130 kosher meals through our Shaar Cares program to people in need today. As an extra precaution we had the meals prepared by an external caterer in their kitchen, not ours. We felt that it was better to be safe than sorry.
Helping the vulnerable is at the heart of our faith, and I am proud that we have been in regular contact with our elderly members and are offering to do grocery shopping for those who are unable to get out.
These are challenging times for all of us as we adapt to a fluid and stressful situation, and we wish all those who are affected by the virus a speedy recovery.
Thank you for your understanding, and please do not hesitate to contact me if you have question or concerns.
In the mean time, please stay healthy and safe.