Toronto issues order to close workplaces with COVID outbreaks

Toronto issues order to close workplaces with COVID outbreaks
The Canadian Press / Chris Young
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Toronto Public Health is issuing an order that will see workplaces with COVID-19 case outbreaks forced to close for a minimum of 10 days.

The order is being issued through Section 22 of the Ontario Health and Protection Act, which grants medical officers of health, in this case Dr. Eileen de Villa, the power to force businesses to close if there is a risk of an outbreak of a communicable disease.

In a press release, the City of Toronto pointed to the rise in “variants of concern” that are spreading quickly throughout Toronto and its surrounding areas, with outbreaks being “increasingly linked to workplaces, where the virus can spread through close contact between workers.” 

The new order will require the full or partial closures of workplaces when five or more COVID cases are identified within a 14-day period, or where cases could “reasonably” have been acquired while in the workplace.

Should a workplace have an outbreak that meets this criteria, it will be closed for a minimum of 10 days. During that time period, workers from the affected location will be required to self-isolate. An exemption will be provided for certain workplaces, like health care facilities, schools, child care centres, as well as others which are providing “critical services.”

The order is set to come into effect on April 23, 2021, and follows the same approach that was taken by neighbouring Peel Region. Similar measures have also been enacted in British Columbia.

"Workplaces that are open provide an opportunity for COVID-19 to spread," said de Villa.

“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.”

In justifying the new measures, Toronto Mayor John Tory said that the city is doing everything it can “to help essential workers facing the third wave of this virus.”

“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.”

Toronto, with a population near three million, has reported just over 130,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic was declared, with the variants of concern numbering just shy of 20,000 of that total number. Toronto lists just over 2,900 fatalities linked to COVID-19, and has nearly 900 individuals in hospital with COVID-related illnesses. 

To date, the city has issued more than 923,000 COVID vaccine doses.

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