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REPORT: COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Healthcare Settings – Data Updated to December 2

Posted: December 15, 2020

(December 15, 2020)

Click here for full version of the non-health care outbreaks report with a list of all outbreaks. A summary of the report can be found below.

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Introduction

It is evident that lockdowns in hotspots and increasing restrictions in most Public Health Unit regions have been inadequate to stem the spread of COVID-19 as Public Health Ontario reports a 22.1% increase in cases during the two-week period from November 18th – December 2nd[1], a rolling 7 day average of 1,795 cases per day[2] and a provincial test positivity rate of 3.9% during the week of November 22nd– November 28th, in which two neighbourhoods in Toronto and York have positivity rates above 20% and 27 areas in Peel, Toronto, York, Durham, Waterloo and Windsor have positivity rates above 10%. The Public Health Units with the highest test positivity rates are Peel (10.3%, Toronto 6.0%, York 5.7%, Windsor-Essex 4.3%, Waterloo 3.9%, Durham 3.7%, Hamilton 3.4% and Halton 3.3% [3]. The increase in non-health care workplaces now far outpace the spread in the general public, increasing 26.64%[4] in the same two weeks. This increase, as reported by Public Health Ontario also only includes 1,273 cases in schools associated with outbreaks (due to their narrow definition of “outbreak” in schools), compared to the actual 5,146 total cases in students and staff reported by the province of Ontario. With limited reporting being made available by most Public Health Units, the Ontario Health Coalition calculates that there has been an increase of 24.93% in cases in non-health care workplaces (including schools) over the most recent two-week period captured in this report, including all cases in schools and day care settings.

While cases in schools did not increase as drastically as in our previous report, the growth is still alarming and far beyond the rate of increase in the general public, increasing 41.4% in two weeks.  Large outbreaks at Thorncliffe Public School in Toronto and Frank W. Begley in Windsor-Essex, indicate that the potential for spread in our schools may be worse than expected.  Thorncliffe Public School is part of a provincial program offering voluntary on-site testing at schools in high positivity areas.  After joining the program there were 26 cases discovered with each of the school’s 18 classes having one or two positive cases[5].  After declaring an outbreak at Frank W. Begley, the number of positive cases have increased significantly as the school was tested and 45 cases have been associated with the outbreak.[6]  These large outbreaks indicate that better measures are needed to respond to the high growth in the spread of COVID-19 in schools.

The largest increase in cases in this report was from the manufacturing sector as the spread of the novel coronavirus grew by 76.68% in two weeks.  Not only have there been large outbreaks, such as the one at a Window Covering factory in Vaughan, but there have been outbreaks in low positivity health units like Cameco in Port Hope and Proctor and Gamble in Belleville. Retail outbreaks have continued to grow severity and frequency and have also spread across Ontario.  Retail outbreaks have increased 29.38% since our last report and have spread as far north as Sudbury. Cases in outbreaks among Public Service workplaces like transit, LCBO, Service Ontario and Utilities have risen 23.24% and cases in construction have also risen 25%.  Since it is evident that lockdown has not sufficient to curb the spread of the virus in Toronto and Peel and cases continue to spread from these hot spots, stronger measures, including clear and enforced infection control protocols must be put in place in workplaces that remain open.

While it has been impossible to find systematic province-wide information for workplace outbreaks due to the lack of transparent reporting in most Public Health Units, there have been significant improvements during this report.  Brant County and Hamilton Public Health Units are now reporting the names of businesses and cases associated with all outbreaks.  Hastings-Prince Edward and Timiskaming are reporting names of businesses only when necessary to properly contact trace the outbreak and Peel and Waterloo are revealing case numbers and industries but not the business names.  All other Public Health Units are not reporting any information beyond health care, some report congregate care settings and Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent report agricultural outbreaks.  Toronto is among the least transparent in their reporting, only reporting hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes and homeless shelters.

Contact tracing and quarantining remains a huge problem. In our last report during the week of November 14, 35.4% of COVID-19 cases had not been traced back to an exposure source.  For the week of November 28, 36.7% of cases have been traced back to their source.  In order to control the spread of this virus, Public Health Units must be given the resources to be able to contact trace COVID-19 cases and all those exposed must self-isolate or quarantine. The public needs to know what businesses are a source of potential exposure so that Ontarians can make informed decisions as well as know when to get tested or contact their local Public Health Unit.  Instead of providing this, the Ford government seems to be intent on loosening requirements for quarantining after international travel and sitting idle while waiting for a vaccine.[7]

 

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) [8][9]

 

Industry Number of Active Outbreaks Dec. 2 Cumulative Outbreaks Cumulative Cases to Nov. 18 Cumulative Cases to Dec. 2
Shelters 12 72 640 643
Corrections 4 11 125 126
Group Homes 43 219 1,021 1,194
Workplaces (agricultural, retail, food processing, public services, manufacturing) 298 946 4,422 5,694
Daycare and Schools* 169 467 843 1,273
Total 526 1,715 7,051 8,930

*Public Health Ontario is now reporting some cases associated with school outbreaks, however their definition of a school outbreak requires a known epi link (same class or direct contact) and does not reflect the number of cases in schools even when there are multiple cases in the same school.

 

Chart 2. COVID-19 Ontario Health Coalition’s Tracking of Cases by Industry & 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 Cumulative Cases November 18 Regions/Towns Impacted Cumulative Cases November 18
Agriculture 2,038   2,132
    Niagara  
    Haldimand Norfolk  
    Simcoe-Muskoka  
    London  
    Windsor-Essex  
    Chatham Kent  
    Vaughan  
Food Processing 361   381
    Waterloo  
    Burford  
    York  
    Kitchener  
    Brampton  
Social Services 266   297
(Immigration and Women’s Shelters)   Toronto  
    Ottawa  
Homeless Shelters 693   707
    Toronto  
    York  
Childcare Centres and Schools 4,281*   6,054*
(includes summer camps)   York  
    Toronto  
    Niagara  
    Ottawa  
    Waterloo  
Developmental Services 554   556
    Ottawa  
    York  
    Toronto  
    Eastern Ontario  
    Hamilton  
    Niagara  
    Waterloo  
    Chatham-Kent  
Corrections and Law Enforcement 156   158
    Elgin-Middlesex  
    Brampton  
    Toronto  
    Iroquois Falls  
    Hamilton  
    Kingston  
    Ottawa  
    Grand Valley  
Retail, Bars and Restaurants 793   1,026
    Greater Toronto Area  
    Durham  
    Peel  
    York  
    Keswick  
    Alliston  
    Bradford  
    Brantford  
    Hamilton  
    Bolton  
    Kingston  
    London  
    Burford  
    Ottawa  
    Oakville  
    Leamington  
Manufacturing 223   394
    Waterloo  
    Hamilton  
    Northern Ontario  
    First Nations  
Public Services 327   403
(Parks, Transit and LCBO)   Toronto  
    Peel  
    Ottawa  
Construction 16   20
    Toronto  
Total 9,708 12,128

This total includes cases that we had previously tracked plus all of the cases that the province is reporting since September.  We have also included outbreaks in faith schools, administrative offices, student residences and private schools in our total.

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[1] Public Health Ontario. Weekly Epidemiologic Summary. December 2 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/2020/11/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report-nov-14.pdf?la=en and https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

[2] Toronto Star. The latest numbers on COVID-19 in Canada for Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/12/06/the-latest-numbers-on-covid-19-in-canada-for-sunday-dec-6-2020.html

[3] IC/ES. COVID-19 Dashboard. December 2 2020 https://www.ices.on.ca/DAS/AHRQ/COVID-19-Dashboard

[4] Public Health Ontario. Weekly Epidemiologic Summary. December 2 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/2020/11/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report-nov-14.pdf?la=en and https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

[5] Alphonso, Caroline. Toronto school closes after COVID-19 testing blitz uncovers more than two dozen cases

Globe and Mail. December 3 2020  https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/toronto/article-students-self-isolating-after-more-positive-covid-19-tests-at/

[6] Borelli, Melanie. Begley school to welcome back students this week after COVID-19 outbreak. CTV News. December 7 2020. https://windsor.ctvnews.ca/begley-school-to-welcome-back-students-this-week-after-covid-19-outbreak-1.5219919

[7] Davidson, Sean. Ford ‘really pushing’ to eliminate 14-day quarantine for travellers returning to Canada. December 2 2020. CTV News. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ford-really-pushing-to-eliminate-14-day-quarantine-for-travellers-returning-to-canada-1.5213375

[8] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  November 3 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

[9] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  November 18 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en