Toronto Public Health and the Region of Peel Public Health launched Section 22 Class Order workplace closure programs on April 23 that will give those municipal governments the power to close workplaces where COVID-19 outbreaks have been identified.
The measures came as the City of Hamilton public health department posted statistics documenting how the pandemic has extended to a half dozen of Hamilton’s construction workplaces in recent weeks. The city has reported six outbreaks of fewer than nine COVID cases each involving construction and associated workplaces between April 14 and April 21.
“Workplaces that are open provide an opportunity for COVID-19 to spread. Given that the majority of our cases are now as a result of variants of concern, which transmit faster, this order will support Toronto Public Health’s investigators to help workplaces immediately reduce the risk of spread and manage workplace outbreaks quickly,” stated Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for Toronto Public Health.
As of April 23, Peel Public Health will order workplaces that have reported five or more cases of COVID-19 within the previous 14 days to close for 10 days. The plan applies where the cases could have been reasonably identified as acquired at work, a release explained, or where no obvious source of infection has been identified outside of the workplace.
All affected employees must self-isolate and employees who are isolating are not permitted to work in any other workplace. The list of essential businesses exempt from the policy includes “critical infrastructure such as water/wastewater treatment facilities, utilities, telecommunications and IT, transportation and energy.”
A statement from Toronto Public Health indicated it is working with Peel Public Health on development of the policy and its workplace closures measures and policy towards essential businesses are similar.
Neither public health unit immediately reported that any construction workplaces would be subject to closure under the new measures.
“This Section 22 order is meant to help slam the brakes on workplace outbreaks that we know are moving much faster due to the variants of concern. I urge all employers to follow the public health advice to stop outbreaks and protect their employees including against the financial consequences of illness,” said Toronto Mayor John Tory in a statement.
The Hamilton outbreaks involved five private firms and one public-sector entity, the City of Hamilton Roads Department, and ranged from two to eight cases. According to city records, there had been no outbreaks in Hamilton since March 26, when 22 cases were reported at a construction site at 2126 Rymal Rd. E. on the southern edge of the city.
The Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD), which investigates COVID outbreaks at worksites, sent an inspector to the Rymal Road site on March 29. The ministry has not yet identified the firms working on the project nor whether there was any shutdown or orders given.
The April outbreaks involved the following firms: JNE Group of Companies, fabrication unit, two cases, outbreak reported April 14; Unified Engineering, five cases, April 16; Air Wise Sales, eight cases, April 19; Zzone Homes, three cases, April 19; and Flynn Canada, two cases, April 21.
Unified Engineering is involved in steel fabrication; Air Wise Sales is an HVAC manufacturer; Zzone Homes does remodelling; and Flynn is in the roofing business. JNE is a multi-disciplinary engineering and construction services firm.
The City of Hamilton Roads Department reported six cases of COVID on April 14.
No further details were available regarding MLTSD investigations of the Hamilton workplaces.
Watch for further reports as more information becomes available.
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