To: Business Community
Case counts of COVID-19 are increasing across the province. They are also rising now in our KFL&A region which demands increased vigilance and strengthened sector-specific public health and workplace safety measures.
On November 3, 2020, (and updated November 9, 2020), the provincial government released the COVID-19 Response Framework: Keeping Ontario Safe and Open. The document outlines an approach to reducing spread of infections while limiting the harm to the economy and social life. The provincial COVID-19 Response Framework establishes five colour-coded response levels (green, yellow, orange, red, grey), each with unique public health measures, restrictions, and requirements. These regional levels are assigned at public health unit geography. Moving between levels in the framework (i.e., green to yellow) is now at the discretion of the province. The provincial government reviews local public health case count and community transmission information on a weekly basis and assigns a regional level, which will tighten, loosen, or remain unchanged the local public health measures. Given our current case counts, we anticipate the KFL&A region may be mandated to move to yellow level very soon.
We want to thank you for your continued promotion and support for your staff, residents, and visitors to get tested, as well as the public health and workplace safety measures you have implemented. Unfortunately, in KFL&A we have seen that some of the public health and safety measures have not been working the way they should. For example, we have experienced outbreaks due to inadequate employee screening, poor adherence to infection prevention and control protocols (IPAC), and insufficient use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks.
I am therefore advising all heath and workplace settings in the KFL&A region to:
- Screen workers or essential visitors (e.g., delivery, maintenance, contract workers) in the work environment. The COVID-19 Screening Tool for Workplaces includes provincially required screening questions and information about the required process.
Consider screening patrons and individuals entering the premises for COVID-19 symptoms and risk factors before their appointment or when they arrive.
- Wear PPE. PPE is required if staff are within 2 metres of another person who is not wearing a mask or face covering, and are not separated by an impermeable barrier (e.g., plexiglass). In these interactions, protection of the eyes, nose, and mouth is required – goggles or face shields and masks. Cloth face coverings are not considered PPE.
Employers also have duties under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every precaution reasonable to protect their workers. Refer to Using Masks in the Workplace. Even if distancing is greater than 2 metres, face coverings continue to be required indoors, with exceptions.
- Prepare required business safety plan for when the KFL&A area is in the yellow, orange, and red levels. This is a requirement. KFL&A Public Health encourages businesses to proactively develop safety plans as soon as possible. The plan must be produced upon request no later than seven days after a change in regional level has occurred. For more information visit: Develop your COVID-19 Workplace Safety Plan
- For the most up-to-date information refer to:
- Consider enabling working from home when appropriate to decrease risks to businesses.
I am also urging everyone in the KFL&A community to:
- Limit in-person social interactions to people within your household. Minimize interactions with people who don’t live in your house and one or two persons who are essential to maintaining physical and mental health (e.g., caregivers, social supports to someone who lives alone). This means you should avoid in-person social interactions with friends, with co-workers when not at work, and with extended family. When dining at restaurants, going to the movies, or partaking in other social activities, you should limit it to your household members.
- Stay home if you have any symptoms of illness, however mild. If symptoms are compatible with COVID-19, please get tested. While it is cold season now and many of us are used to mild infections at this time of year, a mild illness could be COVID-19 and may be much more severe for someone else who might catch it from us. By staying home if sick, we protect everyone else in our community.
- Limit travelling outside of the KFL&A region to only essential travel and visitors from outside of KFL&A should not be encouraged. This is especially applicable to and from areas with higher COVID-19 transmission rates.
- Continue practicing precautionary measures and behaviours such as hand hygiene, cough etiquette, staying home if feeling unwell, wearing a mask where required and appropriate, and physical distancing.
The past 8 months have been very challenging. We have all adjusted our personal lives, and these measures ask more of us, more ways to temporarily adapt. However, our personal actions are the biggest determinant of COVID-19 spread, and whether more provincially imposed restrictions will be necessary.
I believe, through our collective actions, we are well-positioned in KFL&A to be able to maintain low COVID-19 case counts, keeping our community safe and healthy.
Dr. Kieran Moore,
Medical Officer of Health
KFL&A Public Health