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REPORT: The Spread of COVID-19 Pre- and Post- Winter Lockdown in Ontario Workplaces & Schools – Data updated to January 30

Posted: February 22, 2021

(February 22, 2021)

Click here for full version of the non-health care outbreaks report, which includes a list of archived outbreak entries. A summary of the report can be found below.


Introduction

Since our last update in the beginning of December, the Ford Government implemented a stricter province wide lockdown. These measures went into effect on Boxing Day, December 26 and included reducing operating hours for businesses and mandating that employees able to work from home should do so. Though touted as being a lockdown, it has been left to the discretion of employers to define who can work from home and who cannot, and critics have pointed out people are still allowed to shop for non-essential goods, particularly at big block stores that can remain open because they sell groceries and other goods deemed “essential”.[1] The big changes that came with the “lockdown” were school closures (extended beyond the regular winter holiday) and closures of small stores and other retail businesses — excluding those listed as selling essential goods — and fitness and recreational businesses including entertainment and culture, services such as salons and spas and other non-essential services. Analysis of the definition of essential workers has shown that 65% of workers in the Greater Toronto Area have been deemed essential under the broad guidelines set by the province and have continued to work on site.[2]  On a positive note, after December 26 the message was clear: stay at home. But the directives, measures, regulations and penalties were decidedly less so.

This report tracks the COVID-19 cases in workplaces, schools and childcare prior to the stricter lockdown and since, as well as the spread of the virus in the general population. It shows that overall, cases among the general population actually increased more in January than in December, a very disturbing finding, but it includes cases, particularly in early January, that likely developed from transmission of the virus prior to the stricter lockdown on December 26. There is a lag, both in the development of symptoms and in people getting testing once they have symptoms. On the other hand, it appears the public health measures may have been somewhat effective in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in some workplace settings as the rate of increase has gone down in January, but there is still a significant increase.

For the four weeks from December 5 – January 2:

  • COVID-19 cases in the general population increased 50.43%
  • COVID-19 cases tied to workplace outbreaks (outside of health care) increased 47.85%.

For the four weeks from January 2 to January 30:

  • COVID-19 cases in the general population increased 75.07%
  • COVID-19 cases associated with workplace outbreaks (outside of health care) increased 44.29%.

From December 5 to January 2, the industries which saw the highest growth in COVID-19 cases associated with a workplace outbreak, calculated from Public Health Ontario data, were:

  • Retail (138%)
  • Corrections (116%)
  • Education (ranging from 59%-105%) Note: these are just the numbers associated with what the province has defined as a school outbreak, not all school cases which are calculated below.

COVID-19 cases in the general population grew 50% during that same period.

Since the lockdown started December 26, virtually all of these cases would be associated with pre-lockdown contagion.

From January 2 to January 30, the industries which saw the highest growth in COVID-19 cases associated with a workplace outbreak, calculated from Public Health Ontario data, were:

  • Corrections (152%)
  • Education (Post-Secondary 67%)
  • Childcare (64%)
  • Congregate care setting (other) (65%) Note: this excludes shelters, group homes, corrections and short-term accommodations.
  • Retail (62%)
  • Food processing (43.5%). There have been severe and fatal outbreaks in food processing as well as the discovery of the UK Variant in a food processing plant at Belmont Meats in Toronto. [3]

During the same period, cases in the general population drastically increased 75%.

Post lockdown, the highest growth has been in industries that did not shut down. In particular, we see an alarming growth in the spread of COVID-19 in Correctional Facilities. The spread of the virus in Childcare grew consistently throughout the lockdown and into January. Conversely, the growth in Retail slowed considerably and became less than the spread of the virus in the general population in January. The spread in Education also slowed. Though case totals are less than the general population growth, there have been significant outbreaks in Food Processing. We have seen some increase in school cases and outbreaks since schools implemented a staggered reopening from January 10 to February 16.

As of January 30, the province reported an overall test positivity rate of 4% with the highest positivity being in Peel (9%), Toronto (7.3%), York (6.3) and Niagara (4.3%).[4]

As of December 2, reported in our tracking report to that date, the overall test positivity rate was 3.9% with the highest positivity rate in Peel (10.3%) and other regions’ positivity rates as follows: Toronto (6%), York (5.7%), Windsor-Essex (4.3%), Waterloo (3.9%), Durham (3.7%), Hamilton (3.4%) and Halton (3.3%).

 

Correctional Facilities

The largest growth of COVID-19 cases in December and January of any sector outside of health care has been in Corrections. COVID-19 cases in Corrections grew 116% on between December 5 and  January 2 (compared to the general population increase of 50.43%) and 152% between January 2 and January 30 (compared to the 75% increase in the general public). [5] [6]  Not only have cases increased in corrections, the virus has also spread to correctional facilities that were untouched during the first wave of COVID-19 such as Thunder Bay Correction Centre with 58 cases and the Thunder Bay Jail with 28 cases. [7]  Some inmates were then transferred to Toronto South Detention Centre.  Toronto South Detention Centre previously had their own outbreak in December with 77 cases. Since the transfer, there has been a second outbreak declared with 27 cases associated. [8]

 

The Spread of COVID-19 in Retail

Retail COVID-19 cases had increased 138% from December 5 to January 2, compared to the 50% increase in the general population for the same time period. This increase is very likely associated with holiday shopping and the decision of the Ford government to postpone the lockdown to allow holiday shopping.

From January 2 to January 30 cases had increased in Retail by 62% when cases in the general public had increased 75%. Some of these cases may have resulted from earlier exposure to the virus, but we can see that there is a very significant decrease in transmission of the virus in retail outbreaks from the worst period of December 5 to January 2.

Potentially contributing to the spread of the virus in retail are inadequate safety measures. By January 29, the province had inspected more than 1,000 stores and issued more than 110 tickets for violations including improper PPE, lack of social distancing, exceeding capacity limits and no safety plans in place.[9]  Among those ticketed were several large chain stores including Walmart and Shoppers which had 5 locations fined, as well as Costco, Sobeys, FreshCo, No Frills, and Food Basics.[10]

 

Schools

COVID-19 cases in schools were continuing to skyrocket prior to school holiday closures on December 18. Total cases in schools (those counted as “outbreak” by the narrow definition adopted by the province and those not tied to a declared outbreak) grew 35% from December 5 to December 18 compared to the 22% increase in cases in the general public.  COVID-19 cases in childcare also continued to grow significantly, increasing 36.5% in that same period. Cases in childcare, which did not shut down, continued to grow throughout the lockdown period.

The Northern Public Health Units reopened schools as of January 10 and other non “hot spot” Public Health Units have opened schools as of February 1. While the Northern Public Health Units have relatively few cases overall, since returning to school there have been four outbreaks in schools in Sudbury.  Among the largest is an outbreak at St Charles College with 22 cases[11], St David’s Catholic Elementary School with 13 cases[12] and 3 cases associated with an outbreak at Pius XII Catholic School.[13]  With the Ford Government’s announcement that Toronto, York and Peel will reopen on February 16, there is renewed potential for the spread of COVID-19.  This concern is heightened as a result of new research that shows that children under the age of 16 may be more susceptible to the UK variant,[14] and the example of Corzano, Italy, where 24 teachers and students tested positive for COVID-19 and 14 of them were positive for the UK variant.[15]

 

Food Processing

COVID-19 has also spread dramatically in food processing, increasing 65% between December 5 and  January 2 and 43% between January 2 and January 30, with large outbreaks at Conestoga Meats in Kitchener which experienced a second outbreak with 132 cases,[16] and, potentially even more troubling, an outbreak at Belmont Meats in Toronto where the B117 variant has been found in 2 of their 78 cases of COVID-19 (other results are being tested for the variant).[17] Cargill Meats in Guelph has also had a tragic outbreak with 172 cases and one death connected to the outbreak.[18]  While lockdown has reduced the growth of transmission in many industries, more has to be done to protect essential and vulnerable workers such as food processing workers, of which 72% of the workers are landed immigrants and make a median hourly wage of $20.[19]

 

Canada Post

On January 30 there was a tragic outbreak at a Canada Post distribution facility in Mississauga with 273 employees testing positive for COVID-19 and one worker passing away from the virus. [20]

 

Public Reporting

Reporting of workplace outbreaks has improved. Ten Public Health Units now report at least the industry and cases associated with workplace outbreaks (though not the workplace name) and Toronto is now reporting some workplace outbreaks if deemed a risk to public safety.  There is still a long way to go. The majority of workplace outbreaks are still not reported with the name of the business. Transparent and comprehensive reporting on outbreaks are necessary to not only inform the public about risks of exposure but also to pressure companies to implement safe working conditions. Public Health Units must communicate clearly about outbreak protocols to keep workers safe.

 

Chart 1. Public Health Ontario’s Reported COVID-19 Outbreaks in Non-Health Care Industries
(This chart shows the number of cumulative cases that have been traced back to an outbreak at a workplace in Ontario as reported by Public Health Ontario, broken down by workplace type) [21][22]
Dec 5 Jan 2 % increase Jan 30 % increase
Congregate Care Settings
Corrections 128 276 115.63% 693 151.9%
Shelter 650 688 5.85% 1,004 45.93%
Group Home 1,082 1,465 35.40% 2,036 38.98%
Short-term Accommodations 14 14 0.00% 43 207.14%
Other 247 396 60.32% 655 65.40%
Education
Child Care 359 509 41.78% 837 64.44%
Elementary School 854 1,357 58.90% 1,852 36.48%
Elementary-Secondary 88 176 100% 194 10.23%
Secondary 269 461 71.38% 618 34.06%
Post-Secondary 19 39 105% 65 66.67%
Workplaces
Bar/Restaurant Nightclub 376 493 31.12% 584 18.46%
Personal Services 32 36 12.50% 42 16.67%
Recreational Fitness 338 428 26.63% 451 5.34%
Recreation-other 435 590 35.63% 821 39.15%
Retail 228 543 138.16% 879 61.88%
Farm 1,489 1,803 21.09% 2,294 27.23%
Food Processing 764 1,261 65.05% 1,809 43.46%
Other 2,468 4,013 62.60% 6,114 52.35%
Workplace Outbreak Total 9,840 14,548 47.85% 20,991 44.29%
General Population 128,759 193,692 50.43% 268,933 75.07%

 

Chart 2. COVID-19 In Education and Childcare
(This chart shows the cumulative number of cases in childcare and education settings as reported by the province of Ontario.  These cases are much higher than the cases reported by Public Health Ontario because not all of these cases are associated with a declared outbreak.) [23]
Dec 4 Dec 18 % Increase Jan 30 % increase
Education 5,402 7,292 34.98% 7,316 3.33%
Childcare 893 1,219 36.51% 2,191 79.73%
General Population 125,385 153,614 22.51% 268,933 75.07%

 

Industry Reporting

 

Agriculture

Summary

During the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks at farms highlighted poor living conditions in bunk and farmhouses across the province. Many farms, including London-Ontario Plant Propagation, Martin Family Fruit Farms in Elgin County, Pioneer Flower Farms in Niagara region, reported large outbreaks [24] [25] [26]. The worst outbreaks were reported at Scotlynn Group (220 cases) in Norfolk County, Greenhill Produce in Chatham Kent, and Ontario Plants Propagation of St Thomas[27] [28]. Additionally, 2 unidentified farms in Simcoe-Muskoka and Ravine Mushroom Farm in Vaughan reported cases among workers[29] [30].

By July of 2020, 824 workers had tested positive and three died with COVID-19 related illnesses in the Windsor- Essex and Niagara Regions[31] [32]. Cases continued to rise in Leamington and Kingsville agricultural facilities, home to over 8000 farm workers, with 34 cases in June alone[33]. GreenHill Produce in Chatham Kent continued to report COVID19 outbreaks at their farms with a total of 103 workers testing positive by early July [34]. Similarly, Pioneer Flower Farms in Niagara region reported additional cases in the summer for a total of 65 cases since the initial cases were reported in the spring[35].

Outbreaks are continuing at agricultural facilities across Ontario into the second wave of the pandemic. By the end of August, a total of 1,170 agricultural-farm workers had tested positive in the Windsor-Essex region [36]. Another 30 cases were confirmed by the end of October and 155 by December for a total of 1293 cases[37].  Schuyler Farms in Haldimand Norfolk and Lincoln Flower Farms in Niagara region also continued to report increases in COVID-19 cases during November 2020 [38] [39]. By December 2020, farms in Chatham Kent region reported an increase of 21 cases since September, for a total of 259 cases between temporary migrant and other farm workers, with 3 active outbreaks at farm facilities [40] [41].

Update January 30, 2021

Windsor-Essex and Chatham Kent have stopped reporting on the number of cases in the agriculture industry, however there are currently 8 active outbreaks in Windsor-Essex which is a significant increase since earlier in Wave 2 of COVID-19.[42] While there is extremely limited reporting both by Public Health Units and media, the number of outbreaks has increased.  Farmers have also petitioned the government to make migrant workers exempt from mandatory testing before arriving in Canada, claiming that tests are too expensive in their workers’ home county.[43]

 

Food Processing

Summary

Outbreaks in food processing started in the beginning of May with large outbreaks at Maple Lodge Farms in Brampton[44], Conestoga Meat in Kitchener[45], Saputo Dairy in York[46], and FGF Bakeries in Toronto[47].  With the exception of FGF Bakeries, these companies were relatively transparent about their outbreaks, sharing case information and updates with the public.   FGF Bakeries, on the other hand, did not reveal outbreak details, and it was not discovered until June[48]. These outbreaks had rapid spread among their workplaces and had hundreds of cases associated with them as well as the tragic deaths of a worker at Saputo and a worker at FGF Bakeries.

During the second wave, there was a slew of outbreaks in industrial cities starting in the middle of November and escalating through December.  The majority of these outbreaks did not reveal the business names but had a significant number of cases related to them. These outbreaks were reported in Kitchener[49], Waterloo[50], and Brampton[51]. They ranged from 4-18 cases.

Update January 30, 2021

Meat Processing Plants have shown a significant increase in cases since the lockdown began as they have stayed opened as an essential service.  Conestoga Meats in Kitchener has experienced a second outbreak with 132 cases[52].  Potentially even more troubling is the outbreak at Belmont Meats in Toronto where the B117 variant has been found in 2 of their 78 cases of COVID-19 and the rest are being tested for the variant. [53] Cargill Meats in Guelph has also had a tragic outbreak with 172 cases and one death connected to the outbreak.[54] There is also an unknown food processing facility outbreak in Brampton with an associated 27 cases.[55]  Canada Bread in Hamilton also reported an outbreak with 30 cases among their staff members.[56]

 

Social Services

Summary

Outbreaks in Social Services started during the first wave among congregate living settings such as refugee centres, women’s shelters, and children’s aid centres.  The most tragic outbreak being at the Willowdale Welcome Centre in Toronto in the middle of May where 180 of the 200 refugees tested positive for COVID-19, as well as 24 staff members[57].

During the second wave of the virus there were increasing numbers of outbreaks among community and social services starting in November and escalating through December. These large outbreaks started in Toronto[58], Ottawa[59], York[60] and Peel but then spread to Hamilton and Niagara.  These outbreaks have been significant ranging from 1 case to 11 cases per location.

Update January 30, 2021

Very few Public Health Units are reporting outbreaks in social services and fewer still are reporting the names, making it difficult to differentiate between group homes and social services.  However, the hotspots that do report cases, namely Hamilton, are showing significant outbreaks in social service settings like YMCA (five cases), Matthew Children’s Centre (two cases), and the Arrell Youth Detention Centre (one case). [61]  There has also been an outbreak at Kinark Children and Family Residences with one case associated with the outbreak. [62]

 

Homeless Shelters

Summary

During the first wave of COVID-19 homeless shelters in Toronto were devastated by the outbreaks and by early June, there has been a total of 601 cases as well as four deaths reported[63].  These outbreaks had a large number and percentage of cases in residents at each location.  There were also smaller outbreaks at a few shelters in York[64] and Ottawa[65].

During the second wave of COVID-19, we saw new outbreaks open in Toronto as well as outbreaks at locations that had been resolved during the first wave and by December 3rd there had been 60 new cases attached to outbreaks in Toronto[66]. Ottawa also saw an increase in cases early in the second wave in October[67] and November[68] with small outbreaks in a few of their shelters.  By early December, these outbreaks had mostly been contained or resolved.

Update January 30, 2021

Ottawa and Toronto have seen new outbreaks and a significant increase in cases among their homeless shelters.  In Toronto, numerous sites that have had outbreaks in the first wave are experiencing second and third outbreaks. There are currently ten outbreaks totalling 66 cases among residents, the largest being the Salvation Army Maxwell House for Men with 16 cases.[69]  Ottawa has seen multiple outbreaks in their homeless shelters[70] and boarding houses with the most devastating being at Ottawa Mission House on Waller Street. 60 residents and 8 staff members have tested positive and the shelter has been forced to close the facility.[71] Hamilton has also reported an outbreak at their Salvation Army: Lawsons Ministries with seven cases associated. [72]

 

Developmental Services

Summary

In the first wave, there were three congregate settings with outbreaks in the Waterloo region which were resolved by the end of June 2020[73]. Similarly, Settler Ridge in Ottawa had an outbreak that was resolved in April 2020.  Across the York region, Kelly’s Place Autism Services, L’arche Daybreak Group Home, Meta Center, New Leaf, Participation House, Reena Home, Halsey Memorial Lodge, and Vita Community Living all had outbreaks during the first wave[74] . Other congregate settings with outbreaks included Bairn Croft Residential Services and Welcome House in Ottawa, Access Independent Living Services in Toronto, Bethesda Community Services Inc. in Niagara, Milieux de vie a L’Érablière in Eastern Ontario, and Wesley Supportive Housing in Hamilton[75] [76] [77] [78] [79] [80]

Bairn Croft Residential in Ottawa continued to experience outbreaks throughout the second wave of the pandemic with outbreaks at two of its locations[81]. Also, in Ottawa, Christian Homes Residential Services, Tamir Foundation, Walk of Grace Residential, and Riverview Department Services had outbreaks[82]. Several unidentified congregate living homes in the Waterloo region experienced outbreaks in the second wave with over 40 cases combined[83]. Participation House, Vita Community Living, New Leaf, and Reena Homes in the York region had outbreaks in both the first and second waves[84]. Several other homes in the same region: Aptus Treatment Centers, Loft Community Care Settings, Long Staff, Safehaven Woodbridge and Southdown Institute reported COVID-19 positive cases at their facilities. Chatham Kent Public Health reported outbreaks in group home settings with both employees and residents testing positive for COVID-19[85]. Rygiel Supports for Community Living in Hamilton reported a positive case in their facilities in December 2020[86].

Update January 30, 2021

Developmental services have seen a significant increase in both outbreaks and cases in all of the Public Health Units that report cases.  Ottawa has nine outbreaks in Group Homes but does not disclose the names of the facilities. The worst outbreak being a supported independent living facility that has had 37 residents and seven staff members contract COVID-19.[87] Hamilton has reported three current outbreaks in developmental homes with the largest being Christian Horizons with 11 cases. [88] York has six active outbreaks in developmental services with the largest being March of Dimes with 16 cases associated with the outbreak. [89]

 

Childcare Centres and Schools

Summary

During the first wave of the virus most schools were closed and reopened on September 10, cases in childcare centres and summer camps showed a significant increase throughout the summer and as summer programs and camps opened up there were significant cases reported in Toronto.

As of September 10, schools reopened, and outbreaks were only declared if there was more than one case with a known epi-link. Only if an outbreak was declared would testing and isolation necessarily be implemented.  Immediately after opening schools, Toronto and Ottawa reported cases, usually only numbering 1-3 per school but growing rapidly, almost doubling in total numbers every two weeks.  This continued and outbreaks and cases were declared from Ottawa, Toronto, Peel, and York and spread into Hamilton, Windsor-Essex, Chatham Kent and Durham.  Large outbreaks at Thorncliffe Public School in Toronto and Frank W. Begley in Windsor-Essex, indicated that there may have been more cases in schools than reported.  Thorncliffe Public School was a part of a provincial program offering voluntary on-site testing at schools in high positivity areas.  After the program was implemented, there were 26 cases discovered with each of the school’s 18 classes having one or two positive cases.[90]  After declaring an outbreak at Frank W. Begley, the number of positive cases increased significantly as the school was tested and 45 cases were associated with the outbreak.[91]

Update January 30, 2021

Cases in primary and secondary schools rose significantly from the beginning of December until they closed on December 18, rising far above the spread reported in the general public. Since closing, no new cases were reported until January 10th when schools in Northern Ontario reopened. However, since reopening on January 10th, there have been four outbreaks in schools in Sudbury.  Among the largest is an outbreak at St Charles College with 22 cases associated[92], St David’s Catholic Elementary School with 13 cases[93] and three cases associated with an outbreak at Pius XII Catholic School.[94]  Schools in Southern Ontario that were not in hot spots, have reopened as of January 25th and there has been a small uptake in cases since then.

Cases among university students has continued to rise despite all universities besides Redeemer College, switching to remote learning. Outbreaks seem to be coming from residence areas and parties happening in off-campus living.  Some of the hardest hit universities since December 5th are:

  • Guelph University (49 cases in residence outbreak)
  • McMaster University (8 student and 2 employee cases)
  • Brock University (2 cases)
  • University of Toronto (80 cases across all three campuses)
  • York University (8 cases)
  • Ryerson University (reported 17 cases to date)
  • Queen’s University (5 cases and dozens of cases linked to outbreaks at house parties in off campus house)
  • University of Windsor (6 cases)
  • Redeemer University (5 cases)[95]

Cases in childcare settings have continued to increase at a steady rate despite the provincial lockdown, rising from 1,348 on Dec 24 to 2,191 on Jan 29.[96]

 

Retail

Summary

We began tracking outbreaks in retail stores in June and at the time there was very limited reporting of outbreaks.  Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro were reporting cases in their locations [97] [98] [99].  In early summer most outbreaks were limited to one or two cases per store and were focused primarily in the Greater Toronto Area and Ottawa. The exception being locations that were a part of a mall or their distributions centres. Distributions centres experienced long outbreaks that were very slow to get resolved and continually experience new cases[100] [101].

In the summer, reporting cases improved and some Public Health Units and media were beginning to report more outbreaks in retail settings.  Outbreaks began to spread out of the GTA and Ottawa into Hamilton and Durham and surrounding cities.  There were also more outbreaks in malls, gyms, department stores and salons as businesses opened up. Some of the most noteworthy were a nail salon in Kingston and Spin Co. in Hamilton, which showed how much potential for spread outbreaks could have as the outbreaks spread from clientele to their families. [102] [103].

During the second wave, there was a huge increase in cases among retail shops that experienced more public interaction, i.e., grocery stores, pharmacies, fast food, and restaurants as more outbreaks were declared across the province, spreading into the north and into small towns and rural areas. In COVID-19 hot spots, these outbreaks grew to include multiple cases in each location.  Distribution centres in the Peel regions had extended long outbreaks with 100’s of cases in their workplaces that are ongoing and have been open for months.  While these outbreaks are not named by the Public Health Unit, there are sources who have stated that Amazon’s multiple distribution centres have had large outbreaks and workers have stated that the performance demands and attendance policy have made it impossible to socially distance and isolate/stay home when symptomatic.[104]

Update January 30, 2021

All large grocery chains continue to report significant case loads in their stores.  During the month of December, they were reporting approximately 3-5 cases a day and in January that seems to have reduced to approximately 3-4 cases reported per day by Metro[105], Sobeys[106]  and Loblaws[107]. These cases are throughout the province but are heavily centered in the GTA with significant cases in secondary hot spots, i.e., Windsor-Essex, Halton, Hamilton, Durham.  There are also cases reported in smaller towns with lower positivity rates like Caledonia and Keswick. It is unclear if these cases are associated with declared outbreaks or if they are individual cases without an outbreak. Big box stores have been allowed to remain open and have seen significant outbreaks like the outbreak at Walmart in Alliston with four staff members contracting COVID-19.[108]  By January 29 the province had inspected more than 1,000 stores and issued just over 110 tickets for violations including improper PPE, lack of social distancing and no safety plans in place.[109]  Among those tickets were several large chain stores like Walmart and Shopper’s which had 5 locations fined each as well as Costco which had one.[110]

 

Manufacturing

Summary

Early on in the pandemic, manufacturing saw outbreaks at Mondelez in Hamilton[111], a window covering manufacturer in Vaughan[112],  and a mine in Northern Ontario where 25 workers tested positive and one worker passed away[113]; which also allowed the virus to spread to local First Nation communities[114].  During the summer, new outbreaks were reported in manufacturing facilities in Windsor[115] and Waterloo[116].

During the second wave of the virus, there was a large increase in manufacturing outbreaks predominately in Peel[117] but also outbreaks spread throughout the province in smaller towns far from hotspots, like Belleville[118] and Port Hope. [119]   An outbreak was also declared at a chemical tanker in Sarnia Lambton which, tragically, resulted in the death of one of their crew members. [120]

Update January 30, 2021

Small outbreaks in manufacturing are widespread throughout the province and continue to grow and spread.  Currently there are 13 active outbreaks in Peel with a total of 144 cases between them. Manufacturing in Peel currently accounts for 39.2% of their workplace outbreaks. [121] All of the hotspot areas that report outbreaks in workplaces are reporting outbreaks in Manufacturing.

 

Corrections and Law Enforcement

Summary

Outbreaks in detention centres occurred early in pandemic in April with large outbreaks at the Ontario Correction Institute in Brampton where half of 120 inmates tested positive for COVID-19 as well as eight staff members [122].  There were also smaller outbreaks in Toronto, Hamilton, and Iroquois Falls [123] [124].  Outbreaks continued through the summer where new inmates entering correction facilities were found to be positive and, in most cases, spread to a few inmates and staff before being resolved.  These outbreaks ranged from one to eight cases and were located in Elgin Middle-Sex, Ottawa, Grand-Valley, and Kingston[125] [126] [127] [128].  The outbreak at the Ontario Correction Institute continued to grow to 91 inmates and 25 staff members and ultimately, they had to close the facility [129].

From September to the beginning of December, there were only a few reported outbreaks in detention centres with only Toronto South and East Detention, Toronto Police, Ottawa Detention Centre, and Elgin-Middlesex Detention centre reporting new cases in their staff and inmates [130] [131] [132] [133].

Update January 30, 2021

Large outbreaks have been declared at detention centres across Ontario in both December and January. Thunder Bay Correction Centre and Thunder Bay Jail have both had large outbreaks among inmates and staff with the correction centre having 58 cases and the jail having 28 cases.  Some inmates have since been transferred to Toronto South Detention Centre.  Toronto South Detention Centre had an outbreak in December with 77 cases among their inmates.  Since the transfer, there has been a second outbreak declared with 27 cases associated.  There have also been outbreaks in London at the Elgin- Middle-Sex Detention Centre with 32 cases, three cases at Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, and one case at Toronto East, Sarnia Jail and Central North Correctional Facility.[134]

 

Public Services

Summary

Early on in the pandemic, cases were reported at LCBO locations in Toronto, Canada Post and among transit workers [135] [136].  During the summer there continued to be a steady increase in cases as small outbreaks were declared among workers in transit and LCBO locations across the GTA and Ottawa [137] [138]. There were also cases reported among parks and recreation staff in Toronto [139].

During the second wave, we saw a steady increase in the cases among outbreaks as well outbreaks spreading further out from Toronto and Ottawa and into neighbouring cities.  While cases significantly increased, they seemed to stay more in control when compared to private retail companies that also dealt with the public, for example grocery and drug stores.  In the second wave, new outbreaks were declared at churches, court services, Service Ontario, and utility companies [140] [141] [142] [143].

Update January 30, 2021

Public Services have continued to see new cases and large outbreaks during this shutdown.  LCBO is reporting approximately two cases per day on average in their stores predominately in the GTA but also in Hamilton, Windsor-Essex, Durham, and Ottawa.  There has also been an outbreak declared in Essex with at least three associated cases. .[144]

There has been a tragic outbreak at Canada Post Distribution Facility in Mississauga with 273 employees testing positive for COVID-19 and one worker passing away from the virus. [145] TTC has reported that a total of 477 employees have tested positive and there are 139 employees who are still self-isolating.[146] Metrolinx has reported that there have been 72 employees test positive for COVID-19 (five in the last week) and one of their workers have passed away from the virus.[147]

 

Construction

Summary

In the first wave of the virus there were a few small outbreaks in construction companies in Toronto. During the summer we saw another case in a construction company in Kingston[148].   Most Public Health Units do not report construction industry cases, and if they are reported, company names are usually not disclosed. In the second wave, there have been a few outbreaks in Waterloo, Hamilton, and Windsor-Essex emerging with a substantial number of cases at each company [149] [150] [151].

Update January 30, 2021

Recently, there have been two large outbreaks at construction companies in Toronto.  The Well Project on Front St in Toronto has had 68 workers contract the virus.[152] At the beginning of January there had been 23 cases among workers working on the Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction site. They had not shut down any of their sites initially but by the end of January they had to shut down one site when four additional workers tested positive. [153]

 

[1] Crawley, Mike. CBC. With new stay-at-home order, Ontario admits previous COVID-19 lockdown was too weak. January 14 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-covid-19-stay-at-home-order-lockdown-1.5872521

[2] Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. The Star. Who is an essential worker in the GTA? Millions of us, data shows. This is life — outside lockdown — in five graphs. February 2 2021. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/02/02/who-is-an-essential-worker-in-the-gta-millions-of-us-data-shows-this-is-life-outside-lockdown-in-five-graphs.html?utm_source=Twitter

[3] CBC News. COVID-19 outbreak at Toronto meat plant linked to B117 variant, city says. February 1, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-officials-update-covid-886-february-1-1.5896069

[4] IC/ES. ICES COVID-19 Dashboard. February 5, 2021. https://www.ices.on.ca/DAS/AHRQ/COVID-19-Dashboard

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[6] Epidemiological Summary. Public Health Ontario.  January 30 2020. https://www.publichealthontario.ca/-/media/documents/ncov/epi/covid-19-weekly-epi-summary-report.pdf?la=en

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[9] Declerq, Katherine. CTV News. January 29 2021, More than 110 tickets issued to Ontario businesses in connection with COVID-19 violations. https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/more-than-110-tickets-issued-to-ontario-businesses-in-connection-with-covid-19-violations-1.5287844

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January 27, 2021. https://northernontario.ctvnews.ca/covid-outbreak-declared-sudbury-high-school-fourth-school-outbreak-1.5284082

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[16] Hill, Catherine. CTV News. Conestoga Meats continues operating with health measures in place as COVID-19 outbreak hits 132 cases. January 18, 2021. https://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/conestoga-meats-continues-operating-with-health-measures-in-place-as-covid-19-outbreak-hits-132-cases-1.5271679

[17] CBC News. COVID-19 outbreak at Toronto meat plant linked to B117 variant, city says. February 1, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/toronto-officials-update-covid-886-february-1-1.5896069

[18] Khan, Anam. Guelph Today. One of Guelph’s COVID-related deaths was connected to Guelph Cargill facility. January 12, 2021. https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/one-of-guelphs-covid-related-deaths-was-connected-to-guelph-cargill-facility-3252043

[19] Mojtehedzadeh, Sara. The Star. Who is an essential worker in the GTA? Millions of us, data shows. This is life — outside lockdown — in five graphs. February 2 2021. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/02/02/who-is-an-essential-worker-in-the-gta-millions-of-us-data-shows-this-is-life-outside-lockdown-in-five-graphs.html?utm_source=Twitter

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[24] Drevfjall, Ludvig. A total of 60 cases of COVID-19 now found at local flower farm. Thoroldnews.com. June 4, 2020. https://www.thoroldnews.com/coronavirus-covid-19-local-news/a-total-of-60-cases-of-covid-19-now-found-at-local-flower-farm-2410095

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[28] Ferguson, Rob. Spike in COVID-19 cases among migrant workers in southwestern Ontario. The Star. June 9, 2020. https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2020/06/09/spike-in-covid-19-cases-among-migrant-workers-in-southwestern-ontario.html

[29] Engel, Erika. First COVID-19 ‘outbreaks’ reported at two local farms today. Orillia Matters. June 16 2020

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[30]Rocco, Ryan. Coronavirus: 30 cases confirmed among workers at Vaughan mushroom farm.

Global News. July 6 2020 https://globalnews.ca/news/7145069/coronavirus-vaughan-mushroom-farm-outbreak/

[31] Michelle Ruby. Mass to be held Sunday for migrant worker who died of COVID-19. The Brampton Expositor. June 25 2020

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[34]Malone, Mark. Colby almost shut down Kent Bridge greenhouse operation during COVID-19 outbreak. Chatham Daily News. July 2, 2020. https://www.chathamdailynews.ca/news/local-news/colby-almost-shut-down-greenhill-produce-during-outbreak

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[44] An update from Maple Lodge Farms’ regarding the ongoing COVID -19 Pandemic.

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Kitchener Today. May 22 2020

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[114] Friedman Gabriel. Mining industry accused of spreading COVID-19 in remote communities by new report. Financial Post. June 2, 2020 https://financialpost.com/commodities/mining/new-report-takes-aim-at-mining-sector-for-role-in-pandemic

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[120] Bridge, Terry.  Canada’s first COVID-19 casualty in the shipping industry docked in Sarnia

The Observer. November 5 2020 https://www.theobserver.ca/news/local-news/cook-taken-from-ship-in-sarnia-dies-from-covid-19-reports

[121]Peel Public Health.  COVID-19 Workplace Outbreaks

Peel Public Health . Feb 3, 2021.  https://peelregion.ca/coronavirus/case-status/ 

[122] Hasham, Alyshah. Eight staff, 60 inmates test positive for COVID-19 at Brampton jail. Inmates transferred to Toronto South Detention Centre. The Star. April 20 2020. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2020/04/20/68-test-positive-for-covid-19-in-outbreak-at-brampton-jail-inmates-being-transferred-to-toronto-south-detention-centre.html

[123] More than 2,000 inmates released, 6 COVID-19 cases confirmed inside Ontario jails. CBC News. April 9 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-jails-coronavirus-1.5527677#:~:text=Toronto-,More%20than%202%2C000%20inmates%20released%2C%206%20COVID%2D19%20cases%20confirmed,COVID%2D19%20inside%20correctional%20facilities.

[124]Gillis, Wendy. Eleven Toronto police employees have tested positive for coronavirus.

Toronto.com. April 9 2020 https://www.toronto.com/news-story/9938483-eleven-toronto-police-employees-have-tested-positive-for-coronavirus/

[125] Craggs, Samantha. Still just 1 case of COVID-19 at the Barton jail, and 6 more in all of Hamilton.

CBC News. May 7 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/hamilton/covid-19-1.5559976.

[126] Ismail, Reta. Confirmed case of COVID-19 among inmates at Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

CTV News. June 11 2020. https://london.ctvnews.ca/confirmed-case-of-covid-19-among-inmates-at-elgin-middlesex-detention-centre-1.4980088?cache=yes%3Fclipid%3D104056%3FcontactForm%3Dtrue

[127] Raymond, Ted. Inmate at Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre tests positive for COVID-19.

CTV News. August 3 2020. https://ottawa.ctvnews.ca/inmate-at-ottawa-carleton-detention-centre-tests-positive-for-covid-19-1.5049553

[128] MacAlpine, Ian. Two CSC staff members test positive for COVID-19.

Whig Standard. June 26 2020. https://www.thewhig.com/news/local-news/two-csc-staff-members-test-positive-for-covid-19

[129] Martin Robbins. Outbreak over at Brampton jail where 91 inmates, 25 staff contracted COVID-19

. Brampton Guardian. June 16 2020. https://www.bramptonguardian.com/news-story/10024060-outbreak-over-at-brampton-jail-where-91-inmates-25-staff-contracted-covid-19/

[130] Richmond, Randy.  EMDC inmate tests positive for COVID-19.

Strathroy Dispatch. October 21 2020. https://www.strathroyagedispatch.com/news/local-news/emdc-inmate-tests-positive-for-covid-19/wcm/d36e0982-1d77-40d1-8d6c-727c00029a16?video_autoplay=true

[131] COVID-19 Update. Ottawa Public Health. Feb 3, 2021. https://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/reports-research-and-statistics/daily-covid19-dashboard.aspx

[132] Hasham, Alyshah. Toronto East Detention Centre prisoners launch hunger strike to protest frequent lockdowns, harsh conditions Our Windsor. October 5 2020. https://www.ourwindsor.ca/news-story/10218824-toronto-east-detention-centre-prisoners-launch-hunger-strike-to-protest-frequent-lockdowns-harsh-conditions/

[133] Inmate at Toronto East Detention Centre tests positive for COVID-19. Toronto City News. September 2 2020. https://toronto.citynews.ca/2020/09/02/inmate-toronto-east-detention-centre-covid19/

[134] Hasham, Alyshah. The Standard. Five Ontario jails have significant COVID-19 outbreaks. Toronto South Detention Centre outbreak grows to 27 active cases. Friday January 29 2021 https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/ts/news/gta/2021/01/29/five-ontario-jails-have-significant-covid-19-outbreaks-toronto-south-detention-centre-outbreak-grows-to-27-active-cases.html

[135] Latest Cases of COVID-19. IHeartRadio. March 31 2020 https://www.iheartradio.ca/610cktb/news/latest-cases-of-covid-19-lcbo-worker-in-toronto-tests-positive-for-virus-1.11386435

[136]  Statement on LCBO Employee Testing Positive for COVID-19. LCBO. Feb 3, 2021. https://www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/homepage/statement-on-lcbo-employee-testing-positive-for-covid-19.html

[137] Statement on LCBO Employee Testing Positive for COVID-19. LCBO. Feb 3, 2021. https://www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/homepage/statement-on-lcbo-employee-testing-positive-for-covid-19.html

[138] TTC COVID-19 case update. TTC. February 3, 2021. http://www.ttc.ca/COVID-19/Case_update.jsp

[139] Today’s coronavirus news: 2 City of Toronto workers at Parks, Forestry & Recreation test positive; 8 cases identified among thousands of people who attended anti-racism rallies in Calgary, Edmonton. The Star. July 14, 2020. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/07/14/coronavirus-covid-19-updates-toronto-gta-ontario-canada-july-14-2020.html

[140] Waterloo Region COVID-19 Summary. Region of Waterloo. June 25, 2020.  https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/positive-cases-in-waterloo-region.aspx

[141] Four outbreaks reported in Hamilton over weekend, including one Sunday at long-term-care home. The Hamilton Spectator. November 23 2020. https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2020/10/31/covid-hamilton-latest-news-outbreaks.html

[142] Waterloo Region COVID-19 Summary. Region of Waterloo. Feb 3, 2021.  https://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/health-and-wellness/positive-cases-in-waterloo-region.aspx

[143] Clark, Katrina. COVID-19 outbreak at Hamilton-based basketball club as Spinco outbreak hits 85. The Spec. October 23, 2020. https://www.thespec.com/news/hamilton-region/2020/10/23/covid-19-outbreak-at-hamilton-based-basketball-club-as-spinco-outbreak-hits-85.html

[144] LCBO COVID-19 update. February 4, 2021 https://www.lcbo.com/content/lcbo/en/homepage/statement-on-lcbo-employee-testing-positive-for-covid-19.html

[145] CBC News. All employees to be tested at Canada Post facility in Mississauga, Ont., as COVID-19 outbreak grows. January 30, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/canada-post-outbreak-all-employees-tested-1.5895033

[146] TTC COVID-19 Update. February 4, 2021 http://www.ttc.ca/COVID-19/Case_update.jsp

[147] Metrolinx. COVID-19 Update. February 4, 2021https://blog.metrolinx.com/2020/03/13/metrolinx-releases-latest-update-while-responding-to-covid-19-pandemic/

[148] Butler-Hassan, Samantha. The latest on COVID-19 exposures in Kingston. The Kingstonist. June 26 2020 https://www.kingstonist.com/news/the-latest-on-covid-19-exposure-sites-in-kingston/

[149] COVID-19 outbreak CBC News

November 18 2020. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/kitchener-waterloo/waterloo-region-covid-19-update-november-18-1.5806836

[150] Status of Cases in Hamilton: Dashboard. City of Hamilton.  Feb 3, 2021. https://www.hamilton.ca/coronavirus/status-cases-in-hamilton

[151] Borelli, Melanie. Outbreak of COVID-19 reported at Lakeshore construction workplace. CTV News. October 14, 2020. https://windsor.ctvnews.ca/outbreak-of-covid-19-reported-at-lakeshore-construction-workplace-1.5144493?cache=yes%2F5-things-to-know-for-friday-november-1-2019-1.4665609

[152] Saba, Rosa. Toronto Star. All COVID-19 workplace outbreaks will now be made public. First up: The Well, where 68 workers tested positive. February 3 2021. https://www.thestar.com/business/2021/02/03/all-covid-19-workplace-outbreaks-will-now-be-made-public-first-up-the-well-where-68-workers-tested-positive.html

[153] Spurr, Ben. Toronto Star. COVID-19 outbreak forces shutdown at Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction site. January 21, 2021. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2021/01/21/covid-19-outbreak-forces-shutdown-at-eglinton-crosstown-lrt-construction-site.html