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REPORT: Tracking of COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Health Care Settings – Data Updated to October 13

Posted: October 26, 2020

(October 26, 2020)

A printable version of the full report can be found here.

———-

Introduction

As wave two has now officially hit Ontario, we have tracked devastating increases in workplace infections outside of the health care industry.  Our tracking report which includes the spread of COVID-19 inside the health care industry will be released in a separate report shortly.  We have found that there has been a 38.63% increase in cases associated with workplace outbreaks in the last three weeks with 4,149 on September 22 and 5,756 as of October 13.  This is troubling considering that the rate of increase in the general public during the same time was 26.56% with 47,084 cases as of September 22 and 59,522 as of October 13. [1]  Public Health Ontario has also reported a 68% increase in active outbreaks in what we consider to be workplace settings in the last three weeks with 162 active outbreaks during the week of September 22[2] increasing to 272 active outbreaks during the week of October 10. [3] This amounts to a 38.56% increase to the cumulative outbreaks in non-health care workplaces since the beginning of the pandemic.  This increase is disconcerting as we have yet to see any kind of coherent plan or regulations from the Ford Government and the few directives and regulations released have been arbitrary, lacking in detailed instructions for workplace safety procedures and implemented in an ad hoc manner.

The largest increase in cases, predictably, are in schools and day care centres. COVID-19 cases among students and school staff have increased 335.7% since our last report on September 22.  This increase, compared to the 26.56% increase in the general public, is a cause for concern. Even with the different definition of “outbreak” in schools (i.e. needing a known epi-link between cases) there have been 18 outbreaks in the last week and 35 ongoing outbreaks in schools as of October 13. The Ontario reporting website does not include cases in private schools, some faith-based schools, university residences and administrative offices, but we have been able to capture a partial picture of the increase among schools in total through researching media reports. From our research we found 312 cases in schools and daycares as of September 19 and that number has risen to 1,365 as of October 13. To put the numbers in context, on October 16, the partial list (public schools) of data on the public reporting website for Ontario shows 98 cases in schools[4], which made up almost 14% percent of the 712 cases[5] on that day .

The retail industry has also experienced a huge increase in cases.  We have been able to find information for 364 cases linked to outbreaks in restaurants, bars and retail shops.  This accounts for a 47.95% increase since September 22.  Most of these outbreaks are only a few cases. However there have been large and ongoing outbreaks in grocery distribution centres and Spin Co. Gym in Hamilton, which resulted in 51 cases of COVID-19. [6]  

In our report we have found that industries that were hit extremely hard during the first wave and received a lot of pressure and media coverage have seen a smaller increase in cases compared to industries that flew under the radar during the first wave. For example, in homeless shelters we were only able to track a 1.5% increase in cumulative cases during this three-week period and in the agriculture sector we only found a 1.47% increase during this period.  However, the case numbers in these industries may also be severely underreported as there is limited access to testing for agricultural migrant workers and the employers may be actively preventing their migrant workers from getting tested, according to reports from our members who are in communication with migrant workers.  If we compare this to industries which did not receive a lot of coverage during the first wave, we can see that they have experienced a much higher rate of increase. Public Services, which includes public transportation and the LCBO, have experienced a 52.49% increase in cumulative cases, Social Services cumulative cases have increased by 17% and Developmental Services have shown a 2.7% increase.  There has also been a large outbreak in an undisclosed manufacturing plant in Peel Region with 60 cases linked to the outbreak.  Public Health has refused to disclose the business information for this outbreak despite repeated calls for transparency from municipal politicians. [7]

As the second wave continues to expand from the major cities (Toronto, Ottawa, Peel), it is more important than ever that the Ford Government creates a comprehensive plan and regulation to combat this virus.  If schools are going to be allowed to remain open while making up a large portion of our cases with an unknown potential for further spread, then the government must work with Public Health and provide funding in order to properly contact trace, reduce class sizes, and improve safety. For retail, public services and manufacturing businesses, owners and manager need better and clear regulations for safety procedures and these must be enforced.

We reiterate from previous reports going back to June that the government must also improve the tracking of workplace outbreaks. This is vital to understand where and how the virus is spreading so that government and public health authorities can issue policy that can more effectively ensure safety and stem the spread of COVID-19. Currently, school outbreaks are defined in a way that requires an epi-link of two or more cases to meet the threshold, yet students are sharing bathrooms, school buses, recess space etc. Many schools are excluded from the tracking. This is indefensible. Workplace outbreaks are poorly reported and are not broken down by industry in a way that is transparent. Since the approach to managing the pandemic is to keep everything possible open, rather than shutting down, it is more vital than ever that the public understands where and how COVID-19 is spreading. Currently this is not happening. Shielding business names with outbreaks is not serving the public interest. The failure to create a coherent plan and adopt policy measures by type of setting and industry has contributed and continues to contribute significantly to the spread of COVID-19 as measured by the percentage of cases that are associated with workplace outbreaks.

 

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]

 

Industry Number of Active Outbreaks October 13

 

Cumulative Outbreaks Cumulative Cases to Date
Shelters 8 56 604
Corrections 1 6 119
Group Homes 24 120 535
Workplaces (agricultural, retail, food processing, public services, manufacturing) 126 396 2,809
Daycare and Schools 38 133 116*
Other** 75 155 729
Total 272 866 4,912

*Public Health Ontario is not reporting any cases attached to school outbreaks, only daycare

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

 

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 September 18 Regions/Towns Impacted Cumulative Cases October 13
Agriculture 1,837   1,864
  Niagara  
  Haldimand Norfolk  
  Simcoe-Muskoka  
  London  
  Windsor-Essex  
  Chatham Kent  
  Vaughan  
Food Processing 339   339
  Waterloo  
  Burford  
  York  
  Kitchener  
  Brampton  
Social Services 205   240
(Immigration and Women’s Shelters)   Toronto  
  Ottawa  
Homeless Shelters 660   670
  Toronto  
  York  
Childcare Centres and Schools 81   1,365*
(includes summer camps)   York  
  Toronto  
  Niagara  
  Ottawa  
  Waterloo  
Developmental Services 371   381
  Ottawa  
  York  
  Toronto  
  Eastern Ontario  
  Hamilton  
  Niagara  
  Waterloo  
  Chatham-Kent  
Corrections and Law Enforcement 152   154
  Elgin-Middlesex  
  Brampton  
  Toronto  
  Iroquois Falls  
  Hamilton  
  Kingston  
  Ottawa  
  Grand Valley  
Retail, Bars and Restaurants 244   361
  Greater Toronto Area  
  Durham  
  Peel  
  York  
  Keswick  
  Alliston  
  Bradford  
  Brantford  
  Hamilton  
  Bolton  
  Kingston  
  London  
  Burford  
  Ottawa  
  Oakville  
  Leamington  
Manufacturing 131   191
  Waterloo  
  Hamilton  
  Northern Ontario  
  First Nations  
Public Services 122   186
(Parks, Transit and LCBO)   Toronto  
  Peel  
  Ottawa  
Construction 4   5
  Toronto  
Total 4,149 5,756

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.

 

[1] 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.) 

[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] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  October 15 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.) 

[4] 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

[5] Kataawazi, Miriam. Ontario records single-day uptick in new COVID-19 Cases. October 17 2020. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/ontario-records-single-day-uptick-in-new-covid-19-cases-1.5149358

[6] Bron, Sebastian. ‘Patient Zero displayed no symptoms:’ Hamilton’s SpinCo superspreader outbreak reaches 51 cases. The Star. October 13 2020. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/10/13/patient-zero-displayed-no-symptoms-hamiltons-spinco-superspreader-outbreak-reaches-51-cases.html

[7] 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

[8] 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

 

A printable version of the full report can be found here.

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