Toronto Public Health releases COVID-19 workplace outbreak data

Starting today, following the Board of Health decision on January 18, 2021, at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2021.HL25.3, Toronto Public Health (TPH) will increase reporting of active COVID-19 outbreaks at local workplaces. This information will be published on the COVID-19 Monitoring Dashboard, which is updated weekly on Thursdays: https://www.toronto.ca/home/covid-19/covid-19-latest-city-of-toronto-news/covid-19-status-of-cases-in-toronto/.

When TPH is informed of one or more COVID-19 cases in a workplace, TPH begins an investigation. This includes collecting information from individuals who have tested positive, identifying close contacts including close contacts in the workplace to ensure they are home and self-isolating, and providing recommendations to employers on ways to prevent further opportunities for virus spread.

TPH declares workplace outbreaks using the Ontario Ministry of Health definition which requires two or more lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 with an epidemiological link in a workplace.  This means that the individuals could work in the same area, or as part of the same work shift; and that they both became infected with the virus within the past 14 days. Circumstances for reasonably acquiring an infection in a workplace setting can also include no confirmed source of infection outside of the workplace or recent travel history.

Since January 4, TPH has been publicly posting the names of workplaces in active outbreak that employ 20 or more people. This is to help protect the personal health information and the identity of people with COVID-19 in small workplaces. The information published online that will be updated weekly on Thursdays will include the workplace name, the number of COVID-19 cases related to the setting, and the date the outbreak was declared. As outbreaks are declared over, workplaces will be removed from the list as part of the weekly updates.

COVID-19 does not spread from specific locations or settings. COVID-19 spreads through close contact with someone who is infected with the virus.  This is why TPH continues to remind residents to keep contact as much as possible to those you live with, and to limit contact as much as possible with those you don’t live with. If you must have contact with people outside of your home, take these steps to make these interactions as low-risk as possible: reduce the amount time spent in non-essential contact, keep a distance from others of at least six feet or two metres, wear a well-fitting mask, wash your hands often and stay at home if you are feeling ill.

Quotes:

“Throughout the pandemic we know there have been many people who have to go to work and can’t work from home. We are doing everything we can as a City government to help keep people safe and healthy at work. Making workplace outbreak information public makes sense. This information will provide everyone with a better picture of COVID-19 in our community and it will encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves. I continue to urge all employers to make sure they take all steps possible and follow all public health measures to help protect their employees.”

– Toronto Mayor John Tory

“Full and complete transparency. That’s what this pandemic response requires, and that’s what we’re committed to. When it comes to workplace outbreaks, by informing the public, we can help to inform behavior. And, by drawing attention to workplace outbreaks we can help to ensure employers and governments are doing everything possible to keep workers and workplaces safe. In that sense, our intention here is to not only to inform, but to spur action to protect essential and frontline workers.”

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