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REPORT: COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Healthcare Settings – Data Updated to August 29

Posted: September 9, 2020

(September 9, 2020)

A printable version of the full report can be found here. Highlights and charts from the report can be found below.

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As of August 12th, all of Ontario entered Stage Three of the pandemic reopening plan, allowing more restaurants, entertainment venues and other workplaces to open. However, according to Ontario Public Health data there are currently 87 active outbreaks in non-health care workplaces; a significant portion (17 percent or one-sixth) of the 520 cumulative non-health care outbreaks that have been reported since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic[1]. In this report, we have done our best to track the outbreaks in non-health care industries from July 14, 2020 to August 25, 2020. (Previous reports are on the Ontario Health Coalition website.) In this period, we have found 546 new cases of COVID-19 during this six-week period, a 15% increase from our findings in our previous report. The cumulative total of cases in non-health care industries that we found to the end of August is 3,717. These outbreaks have not been reported by most Public Health Units and those that have disclosed outbreaks refuse to release business names and cases at each facility.

In a separate report, available on our website, we have tracked the outbreaks in health care settings.

In the Ontario Health Coalition’s research for this report, we have found significant increases in COVID-19 transmission in agriculture; public services with an outbreak in Ottawa transit; retail where the virus continues to spread to new locations; developmental services, and; distressingly, we have seen new a few new outbreaks in summer camp settings. This is particularly worrisome considering that summer camps have only been open since mid-July or beginning of August depending on region. In the agriculture sector, COVID-19 infections continue to rise significantly (up 34% in approximately six weeks from the cases that we could find).  We have also seen a continued rise in COVID-19 positive passengers arriving in Ontario during July and August, when flight providers were allowed to seat passengers in the middle seats in each row, which had previously been prohibited to allow for better social distancing. In July there were 37[2] [3] flights that arrived in Ontario with COVID-positive passengers and in August there were at least 45 flights.[4]

Transparent and comprehensive reporting of public health threats must be made available to the public in order to make informed decisions. While reporting on COVID-19 outbreaks in workplace settings has improved, outbreak details are only available in regions and sectors that have received a lot of media attention such as agriculture workers in Windsor Essex, Chatham-Kent and Kitchener/Waterloo, as well as homeless shelters in Toronto, York and Ottawa. All other Public Health Units are not disclosing their non-health care outbreaks, business names, and case counts. For example, FGF Bakeries in Toronto had outbreaks in two stores with 184 cases and one staff member who passed away from the virus in May. The outbreak was lifted on June 24, however the information was not reported to the public until the middle of August.[5] Some companies are voluntarily disclosing their outbreaks, for example Metro and Loblaws.

Even within the Public Health Units that have reported outbreaks, the business names and cases are not being disclosed and the privacy of these businesses is being placed before the safety of Ontarians.  For example, Public Health Ontario has released information about active workplace outbreaks by workplace setting, showing a huge discrepancy between what we have been able to find by searching media and local Public Health Unit reports compared to the provincial data. This demonstrates the government’s priorities as Ontario Public Health continues to fail to provide business, regions impacted and case numbers in their reports.

Other provinces, such as British Columbia, that have been open longer than Ontario, have experienced record high COVID-19 cases since the first wave of the pandemic. [6]  This clearly demonstrates that it is more important than ever for Ontario to make a concerted effort to be transparent and implement improved infection control practices in sectors and businesses with outbreaks.  Transparent reporting that allows Ontarians to make informed decisions about their health and the health of their families and this must take precedent over shielding businesses from public scrutiny.

 

Chart 1. Public Health Ontario’s Reported COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Health Care Industries
(This chart shows the number of reported outbreaks in Ontario as reported by Public Health Ontario, broken down by industry. Workplaces are considered agricultural, retail and food processing public services, manufacturing) [7]

 

Industry Active Outbreaks August 29 Cumulative Outbreaks
Shelters 3 49
Corrections 1 5
Group Homes 6 92
Workplaces (agricultural, retail, food processing, public services, manufacturing) 56 289
Daycare 7 18
Other* 14 67
Total 87 520

*Other is not defined in the Public Health Ontario reports.

 

Chart 2. COVID-19 Cases by Industry and Regions Impacted
(This chart shows the cumulative cases the Ontario Health Coalition has been able to find in each industry and which regions have had outbreaks in that industry)

 

Industry Total Cases July 14 Regions/Towns Impacted Total Cases August 25
Agriculture 1,244   1,685
    Niagara  
    Haldimand Norfolk  
    Simcoe-Muskoka  
    London  
    Windsor-Essex  
    Chatham Kent  
    Vaughan  
Food Processing 339*   339
    Waterloo  
    Burford  
    York  
    Kitchener  
    Brampton  
Social Services 205   205
(Immigration and Women’s Shelters)   Toronto  
    Ottawa  
Homeless Shelters 634   650
    Toronto  
    York  
Childcare Centres 17   23
(includes summer camps)   York  
    Toronto  
    Niagara  
    Ottawa  
    Waterloo  
Developmental Services 352   370
    Ottawa  
    York  
    Toronto  
    Eastern Ontario  
    Hamilton  
    Niagara  
    Waterloo  
    Chatham-Kent  
Corrections and Law Enforcement 95   104
    Elgin-Middlesex  
    Brampton  
    Toronto  
    Iroquois Falls  
    Hamilton  
    Kingston  
    Ottawa  
    Grand Valley  
Retail 161   188
    Greater Toronto Area  
    Durham  
    Peel  
    York  
    Keswick  
    Alliston  
    Bradford  
    Brantford  
    Hamilton  
    Bolton  
    Kingston  
    London  
    Burford  
    Ottawa  
    Oakville  
    Leamington  
Manufacturing 44   44
    Waterloo  
    Hamilton  
    Northern Ontario  
    First Nations  
Public Services 76   105
(Parks, Transit and LCBO)   Toronto  
    Peel  
    Ottawa  
Construction 4   4
    Toronto  
Total 3,171   3,717

*Total includes an outbreak reported in this report but took place outside of the reporting period- See Toronto- FGF Bakery

————

[1] Epidemiologic Summary. Public Health Ontario.  August 29, 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

[2] DaClerq, Katherine. Over the span of a week, 20 Toronto flights had cases of COVID-19. CTV News.  July 15th 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/over-the-span-of-a-week-20-toronto-flights-had-cases-of-covid-19-1.5025663

[3]34 International Flights have landed in Canada with COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks . BlogTO. July 31 2020. https://www.blogto.com/city/2020/07/covid-confirmed-flight-india-toronto/

[4] Davideson, Sean. These flights touched down in Toronto carrying passengers infected with COVID-19. CTV News.  August 31 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/these-flights-touched-down-in-toronto-carrying-passengers-infected-with-covid-19-1.5086429?fbclid=IwAR1ZR1UOTCp23zZIZmkn_nKPQwEmnCg53_tOUodY2rNgSMcxrm4kTeGQX30

[5] Mojtehedzadeh, Sara and Jennifer Yang More than 180 workers at this Toronto bakery got COVID-19 — but the public wasn’t informed. Why aren’t we being told about workplace outbreaks? Toronto Star August 10, 2020. https://www.thestar.com/business/2020/08/10/more-than-180-workers-at-this-toronto-bakery-got-covid-19-but-the-public-wasnt-informed-why-arent-we-being-told-about-workplace-outbreaks.html

[6] Dr. Henry addresses idea of reimplementing previous coronavirus restrictions. DH News. August 25 2020. https://dailyhive.com/vancouver/dr-bonnie-henry-bc-coronavirus-restrictions

[7] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  August 15th 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

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