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REPORT: COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Healthcare Settings – Data Updated to September22

Posted: September 25, 2020

(September 25, 2020)

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

———-

Introduction

As Ontario faces growing numbers of COVID-19 cases with increasing infection among younger Ontarians[1], it is more important than ever to make sure that testing is readily available and reporting is transparent. In addition to the widely-reported fact that the recent spike of cases is partially linked to community spread and inadequate social distancing, there has been a significant increase in the number outbreaks at workplaces, in the number of COVID-positive cases that have been found in schools and the beginning of in-school transmission of the virus.

Ontario is not reporting names of the workplaces where there are outbreaks outside of health care, schools, and daycares. Public Health Ontario reports an aggregate number of outbreaks, broken down by industry but the names of businesses are shielded from public scrutiny. In our research for this report, we have tried to find and track all of the workplace, school, and daycare outbreaks. In the last week, municipal politicians in Toronto and Brampton have joined our call for the names of workplaces with COVID-19 outbreaks to be disclosed publicly to protect the public and workers, and to ensure that better measures are taken to stunt the spread of the virus.

In our research for this report, we have found 162 active outbreaks in non-health care workplaces (including schools and child care centres) as of September 22 compared to 87 active outbreaks as of August 29 2020 calculated from Public Health Ontario’s Epidemiologic Summary.[2]  The number of outbreaks has almost doubled since the end of August. The number of cases in schools has risen by more than 521 percent in the last week and in daycares it has risen by 142 percent. In this report, we have included cases that are not being reported by the province of Ontario (cases in administrative staff and private schools) and an explanatory note about the way in which Public Health Ontario is defining school outbreaks, which is different than how outbreaks in long-term care and retirement homes have been defined. Since the end of August, we found that the rate of increase in agricultural workers has slowed with only nine new cases reported. However, our members working with migrant workers have reported that there has not been any testing at the farms in Windsor-Essex in two months and many workers cannot access testing. We have found additional information about workplace outbreaks prior to the end of August as well as new outbreaks from the current reporting period, August 25 to September 18 that are included below. We have summarized new information (with sources) about the working conditions that resulted in the spread of COVID-19 in some of the workplaces.  The number of workplace outbreaks reported in this period may be underreported due to high wait times at assessment centres where they have seen a huge increase in demand since schools reopened.[3]  These high wait times may be discouraging people from getting tested and are also slowing test results as the labs are overwhelmed.

Public Health Units are still not releasing the name of businesses with outbreaks.  This has prompted the Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, to call for the names and locations of businesses with outbreaks to be disclosed.[4]  Also this week, Toronto‘s Board of Health voted to ask the Toronto Public Health Unit to disclose the names of workplaces with outbreaks. Some businesses are being more transparent than others. For example, in May Maple Lodges openly and transparently disclosed the details of their outbreak; conversely FGF Bakeries, which had 184 cases of COVID-19 in May and June, did not have their information revealed until the Toronto Star exposed the outbreak in August.  Currently, there is an outbreak in Brampton with 61 cases in a manufacturing facility and Peel Public Health will not release the facility’s name.

Since schools reopened, the Ontario Government has been reporting information on all schools and daycare centres that have confirmed COVID-19 cases. Public Health has defined an outbreak as there being two or more cases in students or staff with an epi-link (same class or direct contact). However, students and staff from multiple classes share bathrooms, recess areas, entrances, and buses that have common touch surfaces and that may not be well ventilated.  This definition of outbreak being used in schools is different than the definition of outbreak in long-term care which was established after the spread at the Pine Ridge long-term care home in Bobcageon. In long-term care, an outbreak is now declared when one person, staff or resident, is confirmed to have contracted COVID-19. This matters, because outbreak protocols are supposed to be enacted when an outbreak is declared. In schools there can be multiple children or staff in different classes with confirmed cases of COVID-19 without it being declared an outbreak unless there is a proven epi-link.

On a positive note, the Ontario government is reporting case numbers in each school, regardless of whether or not they term these “outbreaks”. As of September 15, Public Health Ontario had reported that there were no outbreaks in schools but in their newest data released yesterday they have reported four outbreaks in Ottawa[5] schools as of September 22[6]. This is the first evidence of in-school transmission of the virus.  In addition, case numbers in schools have risen dramatically. Despite not terming them “outbreaks” the Ontario Government was reporting 29 cases of COVID-19 in 27 schools on September 15 2020. [7] Up to September 22, the province reported 180 cases in 158 schools [8], a 521.6% increase in cases in one week. As of September 15, the province had reported 29 cases in childcare facilities and 10 facilities in active outbreak. As of September 22 Public Health reported 21 active outbreaks[9] with 51 active cases in the childcare industry which is a 142% increase. [10]

Details revealed about the outbreak at FGF Bakeries may shed some light on the spread of COVID-19 which led to more than 180 workers contracting the virus and one worker’s death. Permanent workers were eventually offered seven paid sick days but temporary workers were not offered any paid sick leave initially, and later were offered two days. [11]  Workers report that masks were scarce and physical distancing was inadequate. The company stated that it took measures to implement physical distancing and infection control.[12]

In July there were 32[13] [14] flights that arrived in Ontario with COVID-positive passengers and in August there were at least 45 flights[15]; we have been unable to find how many flights have landed in Ontario during September but CTV News is reporting that there has now been almost 1000 airplanes with COVID-19 positive passengers touch down in Canada from February to September 3 2020.[16]

 

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) [17]

 

Industry Active Outbreaks September 22 Cumulative Outbreaks
Shelters 4 52
Corrections 1 6
Group Homes 10 95
Workplaces (agricultural, retail, food processing, public services, manufacturing) 87 333
Daycare and Schools 25 46
Other* 35 94
Total 162 625

*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 August 25 Regions/Towns Impacted Total Cases September 18
Agriculture 1,828   1,837
    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 651   660
    Toronto  
    York  
Childcare Centres and Schools 23   81*
(includes summer camps)   York  
    Toronto  
    Niagara  
    Ottawa  
    Waterloo  
Developmental Services 370   371
    Ottawa  
    York  
    Toronto  
    Eastern Ontario  
    Hamilton  
    Niagara  
    Waterloo  
    Chatham-Kent  
Corrections and Law Enforcement 152   152
    Elgin-Middlesex  
    Brampton  
    Toronto  
    Iroquois Falls  
    Hamilton  
    Kingston  
    Ottawa  
    Grand Valley  
Retail, Bars and Restaurants 237   244
    Greater Toronto Area  
    Durham  
    Peel  
    York  
    Keswick  
    Alliston  
    Bradford  
    Brantford  
    Hamilton  
    Bolton  
    Kingston  
    London  
    Burford  
    Ottawa  
    Oakville  
    Leamington  
Manufacturing 70   131
    Waterloo  
    Hamilton  
    Northern Ontario  
    First Nations  
Public Services 107   122
(Parks, Transit and LCBO)   Toronto  
    Peel  
    Ottawa  
Construction 4   4
    Toronto  
Total 3,986   4,149

This total includes cases that we had tracked in day cares prior to the Provinces reporting of School and Childcare cases plus cases that the Province has not included (Private Schools and Administrative office). It does not include cases that the province has reported in order to avoid double counting.

——————

[1] Pharmacy COVID-19 testing on the way as Ontario sees highest daily count since early June. CBC News. September 18 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-september-18-update-1.5729286

[2] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  September 22 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en (In the Epidemiologic Report, Public Health has not counted schools, daycares, correctional facilities, congregate care settings as workplaces. We understand why they disaggregate the data in this way; however, they are workplaces as well as providing services and so we have counted them as workplaces for the purpose of this report.) 

[3] Feinnstein, Clarrie. Toronto coronavirus testing centres have “concerns” over longer wait times, lineups. Daily Hive  September 16 2020. https://dailyhive.com/toronto/toronto-coronavirus-testing-centres-concerns-wait-times-lineups

[4] Cribb, Robert.  The public knew about a COVID-19 outbreak at Maple Lodge Farms. So how is it that a Mississauga business, where 61 employees have been infected, has not been identified?

The Star. September 13 2020 https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/09/13/the-public-knew-about-a-covid-19-outbreak-at-maple-lodge-farms-so-how-is-it-that-a-mississauga-business-where-61-employees-have-been-infected-has-not-been-identified.html

[5] Miller, Jacquie. Four Ottawa schools under outbreak as number of COVID-19 cases inches up. Ottawa Citizen. September 24 2020 https://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/schools-2

[6] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  September 22 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en (In the Epidemiologic Report, Public Health has not counted schools, daycares, correctional facilities, congregate care settings as workplaces. We understand why they disaggregate the data in this way; however, they are workplaces as well as providing services and so we have counted them as workplaces for the purpose of this report.) 

[7] Ontario’s COVID-19 cases in schools, child-care centers as of Sept 16. CTV News. September 16, 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-covid-19-cases-in-schools-child-care-centres-as-of-sept-16-1.5103839

[8] Ontario’s COVID-19 cases in schools, child-care centers as of Sept 22. CTV News. September 22, 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-covid-19-cases-in-schools-child-care-centres-as-of-sept-16-1.5103839

[9] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  September 22 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en (In the Epidemiologic Report, Public Health has not counted schools, daycares, correctional facilities, congregate care settings as workplaces. We understand why they disaggregate the data in this way; however, they are workplaces as well as providing services and so we have counted them as workplaces for the purpose of this report.) 

[10] Ontario’s COVID-19 cases in schools, child-care centers as of Sept 16. CTV News. September 16, 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-s-covid-19-cases-in-schools-child-care-centres-as-of-sept-16-1.5103839

[11] Tsekousus, Phil. 180 workers at a Toronto bakery contracted COVID-19. This has prompted calls for paid sick leave in Ontario. CTV News. August 12 2020 https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/180-workers-at-a-toronto-bakery-contracted-covid-19-this-has-prompted-calls-for-paid-sick-leave-in-ontario-1.5061322

[12] Mojtehedzadeh, Sara and Jennifer Yang. More than 180 workers at this Toronto bakery got COVID-19 – but the public wasn’t informed. 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

[13] 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

[14]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/

[15] 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

[16] Gilmore, Rachel. Nearly 1,000 flights in Canada have carried COVID-positive passengers since February. CTV September 3 2020. https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/nearly-1-000-flights-in-canada-have-carried-covid-positive-passengers-since-february-1.5092178

[17] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  September 22 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

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