Peel Region to order closures of businesses with 5 or more COVID-19 cases linked to the workplace

Peel Region’s top doctor says he will issue an order Tuesday that will force businesses with five or more cases of COVID-19 in the last two weeks to close.

Closures will last 10 days if it is found that those infected “could have reasonably acquired their infection at work” or if “no obvious source” for transmission is identified outside of the workplace.

“Workplaces that remain open continue to be a major driver of COVID-19 cases in Peel, as they have been throughout the course of our emergency response,” Dr. Lawrence Loh, medical officer of health for Peel Region, said in a news release this morning.

All employees impacted by a closure will need to self-isolate and cannot work anywhere else during that period.

The order will be issued through Section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, which grants local medical officers certain authority when faced with public health crises.

Businesses and workplaces “essential to the well-being” of the region, such as health-care, first responders and emergency child care, will not be forced to close, the release said. A full list of exempt workplaces will be included in the order later today.

Loh also recommended that businesses forced to close because of COVID-19 cases provide paid leave for employees forced to isolate.

“In the absence of legislated paid sick days, we also call on all employers impacted by expedited closure to provide paid leave for all employees impacted by COVID-19 or these new safety measures, and to consider moving as many operations as possible virtually to reduce risk,” Loh said.

Loh is among the many regional medical officers of health and other health professionals who have repeatedly called on Premier Doug Ford and his cabinet to implement a provincially-run paid sick leave program. More than a year into the pandemic the government has refused to do so, instead directing Ontarians to the federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

As of last week, Peel Region had confirmed 402 outbreaks of COVID-19 linked to workplaces, with about 37 per cent of those in the industrial and manufacturing sectors. Retail and corporate offices collectively make up another 23 per cent of all outbreaks, according to the region’s COVID-19 dashboard.

Large swaths of Brampton and many neighbourhoods in Mississauga are consistently logging test positivity rates well over 10 per cent, the latest publicly available data shows.

Moreover, through each week of April so far, more than 70 per cent of samples that tested positive for COVID-19 in Peel Region also screened positive for a telltale genetic mutation that indicates the presence of a variant of concern.

In the release this morning, Peel Public Health pointed to the continued prevalence of variants as a central factor behind the impending Section 22 order.

cbc.ca

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