COVID-19
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COVID-19

Employers and Employees

In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep people home, the Government of Ontario has extended the Declaration of Emergency and associated emergency measures, including the closure of non-essential workplaces and restrictions on social gatherings until April 13th, 2020. Here is the list of essential workplaces.

Businesses who have questions about closures of at-risk workplaces or how emergency measures impact their business or employees can call the Stop the Spread Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659. Help is available from Monday to Sunday, from 8:30 a.m.―5:00 p.m.

The Ontario government issued a new emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act to prohibit organized public events and social gatherings of more than five people, effective immediately. Organized public events include parades, events including weddings, social gatherings and communal services within places of worship.

  • This order does not apply to private households with five people or more. 
  • This order does not apply to operating child care centres supporting frontline health care workers and first responders provided the number of persons at each centre does not exceed 50 people. 
  • Funerals are permitted to proceed with up to 10 people at one time.

Recommendations for essential service workplaces (not including healthcare settings)

The following recommendations will help reduce the risk of workplace exposures to acute respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19, in non-healthcare settings. The guidance also provides planning considerations for community spread of COVID-19.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is recommended that essential workplaces implement the following:

Actively encourage sick employees to stay home:

  • Employees who have symptoms of acute respiratory illness, including COVID-19, should stay home for 14 days. Employees should notify their supervisor and stay home if they are sick. 
  • Employers should NOT require medical notes from ill employees during this time. We do not support employers requiring staff with upper respiratory infections to be cleared by a physician before returning to work if it has been 24 hours since their symptoms have resolved. 
  • Employers should maintain flexible policies that permit employees to stay home to care for a sick family member. During this time, employers should be aware that more employees may need to stay at home to care for sick children or other sick family members.
  • Employers should ask employees with symptoms who are well enough to work, to work from home remotely if they are able to do so until symptoms are completely resolved.

Separate sick employees: 

  • Employees who appear to have acute respiratory illness symptoms (i.e. cough, shortness of breath) upon arrival to work and employees who become sick during the day should be separated from other employees and sent home immediately.

Emphasize screening, cough etiquette and hand hygiene by all:

  • Post signage at all entrances of buildings to alert staff and visitors to screen themselves for any acute respiratory signs and symptoms before entry into the workplace. If symptoms are identified the staff or visitor should not enter the workplace.
  • Display posters promoting handwashing and cough etiquette (coughing and sneezing into your sleeve) inside your facility. 
  • Ensure tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers are available.
  • Remind your contractors and customers to remain home when ill.
  • Promote good hygiene and cough etiquette (coughing and sneezing into your sleeve) by all employees and customers:
    • Wash hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
    • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. 
    • Use tissues and throw them away after use.

Maintain physical distance and perform routine environmental cleaning and disinfection:

  • There is benefit to increasing the spatial separation between desks and workstations as well as individuals (e.g. employees, customers) from each other. Ideally a 2 metre separation (6 feet) should be maintained, unless there is a physical barrier (e.g. cubicle, Plexiglas window). 
  • Make sure your workplace conducts routine cleaning of frequently used surfaces and objects (such as phones, doorknobs, toilets and keyboards).

Planning for community spread of COVID-19:

  • Employers should plan to respond in a flexible way to varying levels of severity and be prepared to change their business response plans as needed.
  • Employers should encourage flexible work hours; working from home or other sites and ensure technological support for multiple employees to be able to work outside regular office sites.
  • All employers need to consider and create a plan on how best to decrease the spread of COVID-19 in their workplace. Employers should identify and communicate their plan, which may include:
    • Reducing the spread among staff 
    • Protecting people who are at higher risk for adverse health complications 
    • Maintaining business operations
    • Minimizing negative effects on other entities in their supply chains. 
  • Keep up to date with information on our website. All employers need to consider how best to decrease the spread of acute respiratory illness and lower the impact of COVID-19 in their workplace in the event of community spread.

Additional Information

Employees who are well but who have a sick family member at home with COVID-19 are considered high risk contacts and will be asked by public health to self-isolate at home and monitor symptoms for a period of 14 days. These employees should notify their supervisor and follow public health recommendations.

When a high risk exposure to a confirmed case occurs in the community, for example a workplace, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is responsible for conducting public health follow-up and will contact your organization if needed.

  • Anyone who has traveled outside of Canada is mandated to self-isolate for 14 days.
  • Anyone who has been clinically diagnosed or lab confirmed as having COVID-19.
  • Anyone who has been identified as a high-risk contact of a lab confirmed or probable case of COVID-19.
  • While the individual is waiting for test results, the individual should not go to work and should self-isolate for 14 days.
  • There are other situations where your employees may be asked by SMDHU to self-isolate. We strongly recommend that you support the guidance your employees have received from their health care provider or public health.
  • SMDHU recommends that individuals needing to self-isolate at home are NOT required to provide a sick note. Please respect this public health guidance, as we continue to contain spread of the virus locally.
  • Clean the employees work surfaces. Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • Individuals that have had close contact (spent prolonged time within 2-metre radius, or 6 feet) with this employee may need to take additional precautions and will be contacted by SMDHU if the employee becomes a clinically diagnosed or lab confirmed case. 
  • It is recommended that everybody practice physical distancing. Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. Consider how you can apply this practice in your work operations.
  • Individuals testing positive for COVID-19 are directed to self-isolate for a period of time directed by their local public health unit.
  • Individuals that have had close contact (spent prolonged time within 2-metre radius, or 6 feet) with this employee will be contacted by SMDHU and may need to take additional precautions. 
  • If you get questions from your employees, we invite you to point them to our COVID-19 webpage
  • Clean the employees work surfaces. Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19.
  • Review and make use of Public Health Ontario’s resource on Cleaning and Disinfection for Public Settings – COVID-19 to clean the workplace.
  • Individuals that have had close contact (spent prolonged time within 2-metre radius, or 6 feet) with this patron may be contacted by SMDHU and may need to take additional precautions. 
  • If you get questions from your patrons, we invite you to point them to our COVID-19 webpage.

Physical distancing involves taking steps to limit the number of people you come into close contact with. Some examples of physical distancing measures for employees include:

  • Working from home; 
  • Working flexible hours; 
  • Staggering start times; 
  • Limiting the number of patrons/clients your employees would have close contact with (e.g. fewer scheduled appointments, limited number of patrons in a store at any one time).
  • Provide space (2 metres or 6 feet) between colleagues, employees and patrons (e.g. moving desks, adding barriers to counters).

Continue to provide strategies to protect yourself and others.

On March 25th the Ontario government announced Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. The government's action plan includes direct support for people and jobs. It also will make available $10 billion in support for people and businesses through tax and other deferrals to improve their cash flow, protecting jobs and household budgets.
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