Peel Region to shut down essential workplaces with 5 or more cases of COVID-19
Peel Region's medical officer of health Dr. Lawrence Loh is being hailed as a hero this morning for implementing new shut down safety measures that go well beyond anything the provincial government has done to slow the spread of COVID-19 among essential workers.
The public health region just west of Toronto announced Tuesday morning that it would be issuing "an updated Section 22 Order on workplaces" directing all businesses with five or more cases of COVID-19 in the previous 14 days to close for 10 days.
Under the Ontario government's own current shutdown rules, which many have criticized in recent days as illogical and ineffective, factories, food processing plants and warehouses can all still operate despite strong, consistent evidence linking these types of sites to COVID outbreaks.
Health experts and advocates have been suggesting with increasing fervour that paid sick leave will reduce these outbreaks, but Premier Doug Ford has resisted the idea to date in favour of enhanced police powers and the closure of outdoor recreational facilities.
Another heroic move by Dr. Lawrence Loh compensating for the inaction and unwillingness of the #Ontario government to protect essential workers.— Nathan Stall (@NathanStall) April 20, 2021
Businesses are being asked, not mandated, to pay employees for time off if closed—yet another example of why #PaidSickLeave is needed. https://t.co/XtDxVXwOOr
Response to the newest measures announced by Ford on Friday has been terrible across the board. Many are now calling upon the premier to resign over how his administration has bungled the rollout of vaccines and over their handling of the pandemic in general.
By going beyond the province to implement a Section 22 Order of his own, Loh is being praised widely today for doing something — anything — that's actually supported by science to combat the fast spread of COVID variants.
"Peel Region orders all businesses with 5+ recent work-acquired #COVID19 cases to shut down immediately," wrote one Toronto physician on Twitter in response to the news. "Kudos to Dr. Loh for doing what the government of Ontario won't do: Help save the lives of essential workers."
"Thank you to Peel Region & MOH Dr. Lawrence Loh for invoking section 22, ordering shutdown of workplaces with 5 or more cases," wrote another local doctor. "No margin for error when it comes to protecting our essential workers!"
Anyone else feel like Dr. Lawrence Loh is one of the only people who has shown compassion, empathy, and unrelenting leadership?— Zohrin Mawji (@ZohrinM) April 20, 2021
Thank you, on behalf of Peel. Honestly, on behalf of Ontario. pic.twitter.com/5m4ooMVEbx
"With rapid and wider spread of variants as observed in our data, the updated Section 22 Order provisions are necessary to quickly stop spread, protect our healthcare system and save lives," reads a release from Peel Public Health.
"Workplace exposures in Peel Region continue to drive the region's high case counts of COVID-19. Expedited closure will also allow Peel Public Health to investigate workplace exposures without risk of continued spread."
The public health agency is asking all employers who are directed to close under the order to provide paid sick leave for impacted employees, though this is not an official order.
Interesting development at Peel Public Health, which ordered schools closed in the region before the province. Brampton (in Peel) is a land of warehouses/factories/light industrial, so this could be significant if Dr. Loh starts shuttering workplaces. @BNNBloomberg https://t.co/mKgYS3VNDf— Greg Bonnell (@greg_bonnell) April 20, 2021
Controversy is already mounting in response to the move, with some residents arguing that the order is overreaching. Many more in Ontario are demanding that their own medical officers of health do something similar.
As for how the closures will work on a practical level, Peel says that it will exempt workplaces deemed "essential to the well-being of our community," such as those in healthcare, first responders, critical infrastructure, emergency childcare and education.
"Peel Public Health will contact impacted businesses directly and post the names on our website once we talk to them. We know you want that information, but they deserve to hear it from us first," notes the region.
"This will be hard on them and their employees, but aggressive action is needed because of the rapid and wider spread of variants in Peel. These closures will let us investigate fully without risk of continuing spread. And it will help save lives."
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