Toronto to publicly report more data on workplace COVID-19 outbreaks

·2 min read

TORONTO — The City of Toronto will publicly share more information about COVID-19 outbreaks in workplaces in a bid to encourage employers to take greater precautions during the pandemic.

The measure was announced Monday along with stricter guidelines for employers reporting cases among their staff.

"We know the fight is far from over and spread is happening in workplaces," Mayor John Tory said.

"I believe this kind of transparency and public accountability will help to encourage employers to do everything they can to protect their workers and it will help give everyone a better indication of where the COVID-19 virus is spreading in our community."

City officials reported 974 new COVID-19 infections in Toronto on Monday.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said the data on workplace outbreaks will be updated weekly and broken down by workplace type.

It won't compromise individuals’ privacy, though de Villa noted that privacy concerns may limit the amount of detail the city can provide in some situations.

Criteria for disclosing data on an outbreak includes the portion of infected staff, duration of the outbreak and whether the setting is large enough to mitigate privacy concerns.

De Villa said businesses must immediately notify public health when they become aware of two or more infected employees, designate a contact person to correspond with public health, and implement all recommended measures.

Employers must also ensure that employees are aware of the benefits available to them if they are unable to work due to COVID-19.

Toronto employers were to be notified of the changes in a letter from de Villa dated Monday.

De Villa said the city is anticipating good compliance.

"We are expecting that businesses will comply of their own accord," she said. "It just makes good sense for business to have healthy employees and healthy workers."

Tory also repeated calls Monday for the federal and provincial governments to introduce some form of universal paid sick leave.

The mayor and his counterparts in other major Ontario cities have called for the policy, saying some workers may avoid taking COVID-19 tests out of fear of potential lost income.

"I think it's past time that we had action on that," Tory said.

Meanwhile, Ontario's New Democrats said every COVID-19 workplace outbreak ought to be made public.

“Keeping this information secret puts the lives of workers and their families at risk, it increases the risk of community spread, and it removes a critical piece of information we need to find COVID-19 hotspots and stop the spread," said NDP Ontario leader Andrea Horwath.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 4, 2021.

Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press