Toronto Public Health releases new COVID-19 workplace outbreak data and announces new measures for COVID-19 related workplace safety

Toronto Public Health (TPH) has launched new content on its monitoring dashboard to illustrate how the pandemic is affecting workplace settings. Today, TPH released the findings and trends from recently collected COVID-19 case data on current and historical workplace outbreaks, organized by business sector.

As of Jan 7, 2021 all workplace outbreaks will be published weekly in the following categories determined by Public Health Ontario and based on the North American Industry Classification System:

  • Bar, restaurant, nightclub and other entertainment venues
  • Event venues, and religious facilities
  • Non-institutional medical health services including doctor’s offices, physiotherapy clinics, dental settings and wellness clinics
  • Personal service settings including hair salons, tattoo parlours, nail salons and spas
  • Recreational fitness facilities, group fitness classes, team sports and related events
  • Retail settings including grocery stores, pharmacies and malls
  • Farms
  • Food processing plants
  • Offices, warehouses, shipping and distribution, construction, and manufacturing settings
  • Other workplaces and community settings not captured in these categories
  • Unknown
TPH is disclosing workplace outbreak information where a public health risk exists when there is:
  • evidence of sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace;
  • a significant proportion of staff have been involved in the outbreak;
  • significant duration of the outbreak and the approximate time for a positive case to generate a second and third positive case, or cases; and
  • the workplace is large enough that risk of privacy concerns are mitigated.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, TPH, along with the provincial government, has developed and promoted extensive guidance documents on how to prevent and manage COVID-19 spread in the workplace. This includes providing tailored guidance documents for specific settings and sectors. All of these documents are available online at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-reopening-recovery-rebuild/covid-19-reopening-guidelines-for-businesses-organizations/.

Additionally, TPH has issued new requirements to businesses and organizations given the continued acute rise in COVID-19 infections in Toronto. TPH has also issued a letter of instruction to those businesses currently permitted to operate under the Reopening Ontario Act. The letter can be found online at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-what-you-should-do/covid-19-orders-directives-by-laws/?accordion=medical-officer-of-health-instructions-for-workplaces. The letter outlines additional measures to take to further limit opportunities for COVID-19 spread including:

  • Immediately notifying TPH of two or more people who test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days that are connected to the workplace setting by calling 416-338-7600.
  • If two or more people test positive for COVID-19 within 14 days that are connected to a workplace, the employer must provide a designated contact to work with TPH to immediately implement any additional required measures to reduce virus spread.
  • Providing contact information for all workers within 24 hours to support case and contact tracing, and notify the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training, and Skills Development and any other relevant government authorities.
  • Following enhanced infection prevention and control recommendations to help reduce virus spread such as ensuring hand sanitizer and hand-washing facilities are available, and that there is rigorous and frequent environmental cleaning in all high-touch public areas.
  • Conducting a regular review of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to ensure they are functioning well.
  • Minimizing instances of more than one individual travelling together in a vehicle for work, or ensuring face coverings are worn in the vehicle and driving with the windows open.
  • Ensuring a two metre physical distancing between workers throughout the workplace in lunchrooms, change rooms and washrooms. This includes installing one-way walkways to reduce close physical interactions and implementing physical barriers, such as plexiglass, when physical distancing is not possible.
TPH also recommends that employees are informed of income replacement and workplace-related benefits they are entitled to if they have to isolate due to virus symptoms, when they are being tested for COVID-19, or if they are a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Licensed child care programs, schools and school boards are currently exempt from these instructions due to sector-specific legislation, directives and guidelines governing COVID-19 measures in these settings.

TPH continues to remind residents to only leave their homes for essential activities such as work, education and fresh air and exercise. As much as possible, residents are asked to limit contact to people in the same household, keep at least two metres (six feet) apart from people not in the same household and wear a mask when outside of their homes, especially in indoor settings and when physical distancing is difficult. Washing hands frequently and remaining at home when ill are essential to reducing the spread of COVID-19.

More information is available online at https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-latest-city-of-toronto-news/covid-19-status-of-cases-in-toronto.

Quotes:

"Even during the lockdown, we know there are many people who can't work from home. I urge all businesses permitted to operate under the Reopening Ontario Act to do the right thing and follow these additional measures to protect their employees and help protect the health of all Toronto residents. This is about providing as much protection as possible to all the hardworking people who are still going to work in-person to provide essential goods and services. These are recommendations based on the best public health advice we have and will help keep people safe while ensuring businesses can stay open."

- Toronto Mayor John Tory

"In our fight against this pandemic, information is power. The more that we know about COVID-19, the better we can understand how it's spreading and what we need to do to keep people safe. The data released by Toronto Public Health clearly shows that people are getting sick at work, and that frontline and essential workers – the very people we rely on every day to keep our city moving – are at greatest risk. At Toronto Public Health we will continue to do everything in our power - absolutely everything - to keep frontline essential workers safe."

- Councillor Joe Cressy (Spadina-Fort York), Chair, Toronto Board of Health

"Toronto Public Health continues to review the most current evidence to identify ways to better protect our community against COVID-19. This is why I am providing instructions to local businesses today to equip them with additional measures to prevent opportunities for this virus to spread and help keep these settings as safe as possible. On behalf of my team, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to our local business community for their efforts to protect the health and safety of workers, volunteers, customers, and our city as we live with this virus."

- Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto's Medical Officer of Health

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