Walmart Canada has confirmed that two employees at one of its stores in Peterborough, Ont., have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In an email to Global News Peterborough, Adam Grachnik, director of Walmart Canada’s corporate affairs, said two associates from its Peterborough Supercentre on Chemong Road in the city’s north end recently tested positive for the virus.
Grachnik said the employees last worked at the store on April 21.
“We are in contact with the associates and are keeping them in our thoughts,” he said Monday. “Everyone at Walmart wishes them a speedy recovery.”
Grachnik says the store remains open.
“Out of an abundance of caution, associates identified as being in close prolonged contact have been directed to self-isolate,” he said. “We have regular enhanced cleaning in the store and other social-distancing measures. We have contacted public health.
“Rest assured, we will continue to take measures necessary to ensure the well-being of our customers and associates,” he added.
Peterborough Public Health on Monday afternoon says a safe workplace is paramount, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Dr. Rosana Salvaterra, medical officer of health, says employees should stay home if they’re sick.
“They need to be able to go home and get better and know that their job is secure and that they have a job to come back to when they’re well,” she said.
The health unit has investigated the individuals’ recent history and close contacts and said a larger public warning was not warranted.
“If we, in fact, believe there is an even greater risk, to the general public, we would then alert the general public to give them the information they need to either be tested or stay safe,” said Salvaterra.
Lawyer Ian Peddle, who provides legal services in family and employment law in Peterborough, notes other employees have rights if they are concerned about their own safety.
“An employee always has the right, under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to refuse unsafe work or what they feel is unsafe,” he noted.
He says it’s up to an employer to try to resolve the concerns. If that doesn’t happen, the complaint goes to the Ministry of Labour.
“Which then investigates the complaint and then determine whether it’s a valid complaint or not,” he said. “And potentially put in some remedial measures to make the job safer, or otherwise just allow the employee to refuse. ”
He notes under the Act employees cannot be disciplined for making a complaint.
Salvaterra says the health unit says it’s not helpful to focus on specific locations because the coronavirus could be anywhere. She says it’s best to assume the virus is everywhere.
“The virus is out there. It’s being spread in the community and there’s no reason to think that you won’t encounter the virus at a grocery store when you’re out doing your essential shopping,” she said. “I think it’s better to assume you’re incubating it and that you may spread it to someone else. Making those assumptions will be the most helpful to ensure that you then behave in a way to reduce the risk, not only to yourself but to others around you
As of Monday, the health unit reports 69 confirmed coronavirus cases in its jurisdiction, which includes the City of Peterborough, Peterborough County, Hiawatha First Nation and Curve Lake First Nation. Of the 69 cases, 47 are now declared resolved.
With files from Jessica Nyznik/Global News Peterborough