The Ontario government is allowing more businesses and services to open and getting more people back to work by moving the City of Toronto and Peel Region into Stage 2 on Wednesday. This decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local medical officers of health. It is based on positive local trends of key public health indicators, including lower transmission of COVID-19, ongoing hospital capacity, public health capacity to do rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.
“Today’s announcement is another sign that we continue to make steady progress,” said Premier Ford. “We have been working hand-in-hand with our municipal partners and local public health units to safely and gradually reopen the province. We will do everything we can to get our final region, Windsor-Essex, into Stage 2 as soon as possible. That’s why we are ramping up testing and inspections on Ontario’s farms to protect workers and keep our food supply chains strong and healthy.”
Toronto Public Health and Peel Public Health will enter Stage 2 on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. They will join the 31 other public health regions that entered Stage 2 on June 12 and 19, 2020.
“Because of our collective efforts, we continue to make real and significant progress in stopping the spread of COVID-19,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “As a result, more regions have met the public health criteria to move into Stage 2 and reopen more services for the communities to enjoy. Just as importantly, these efforts to stop the spread have ensured that we aren’t seeing spikes in cases in those regions that have been open for well over a week now.”
Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1 and the situation in the region will continue to be assessed on an ongoing basis. To ensure the region is able to move forward as soon as it is safe to do so, the province is building on the work completed by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit to date and collaborating with federal and local authorities to support the implementation of a targeted and collaborative response that includes:
- Continuing with proactive targeted testing for agri-food workers, including enhanced on-farm testing;
- Conducting more than 200 Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development on-farm inspections and investigations;
- Starting new joint inspections of farms with federal authorities to review current working and living conditions of temporary foreign workers with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and local public health officials;
- Providing $15 million through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection program, which provides cost-share funding to improve employee and workplace health and safety on farms and in processing facilities. The funding can be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), put up physical barriers, make housing modifications, or provide alternate housing or other measures;
- Translating COVID-19 health and safety guidance documents into Spanish and posting them on Ontario.ca/covidsafety. Additional resources, including webinars and helpful posters, are also available, and will help farmers and other agri-food employers provide safe and healthy workplaces;
- Providing specific funding to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to deliver resources and consulting services to help farmers and other agri-food businesses provide safe workplaces; and
- Continuing to press the federal government to provide new funding to support priority sectors impacted by COVID-19, including the agricultural sector, as the province reopens and charts a path to economic recovery.
“Our government is committed to protecting our agri-food workers who continue to produce the safe and healthy foods Ontarians rely on,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Expanded on-farm proactive testing, more workplace inspections and additional resources like our $15-million Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program are part of our coordinated effort to safeguard our farm workers.”
The Chief Medical Officer of Health has also strongly recommended that local medical officers of health use their authority under section 22 of the Health Protection and Promotion Act to issue class orders to ensure that employers of temporary workers take actions to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on farms. These actions will ensure:
- All foreign workers self-isolate for 14 days from the date of their arrival, with the resources and supports they need to avoid any contacts with others and notification to public health unit if they have any COVID-19 symptoms;
- All workers coming from any area where there is community transmission have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to beginning work;
- Daily active screening;
- Accurate and updated contact information of permanent, temporary and contract employees available to the public health unit within 24 hours and ensuring employees are assigned to the same group to support effective case management and contact tracing;
- Physical distancing maintained between workers as best as possible and personal protective equipment to be provided based on risk assessment; and
- All legislative requirements to protect worker health and safety are followed.
“COVID-19 has changed the way people work and interact with each other ― both on and off the farm,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training, and Skills Development. “Our ministry, together with its health and safety partners, has worked hard to get important information to employers and workers in the agricultural sector. I encourage you to access these documents at Ontario.ca/covidsafety.”
With this enhanced response, and continued support from the entire Windsor-Essex community, the government is confident Windsor-Essex County Health Unit region will proceed to Stage 2 soon.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will continue to closely monitor the evolving situation in all regions of the province to advise when public health restrictions can be gradually loosened or if they need to be tightened.
Although restrictions are being gradually relaxed in Stage 2, the government is strongly recommending that everyone in Ontario follow public health advice, including physical distancing, wearing a face covering if physical distancing is a challenge, washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.