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Hamilton public health issues order to curb workplace spread of COVID-19

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton's medical officer of health, addressing media during the city's COVID-19 update on Monday, May 3rd, 2021. City of Hamilton on YouTube

Hamilton’s public health department is issuing a Section 22 class order in an effort to get COVID-19 outbreaks within workplaces under control more quickly.

The order, which takes effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, comes as more than a third of Hamilton’s outbreaks are in workplaces and most of them involve one of the variants.

Dr. Elizabeth Richardson, the city’s medical officer of health, said it means workplaces must notify public health if they have two confirmed cases of COVID-19, and then again if they have five cases, at which point they may be subject to closure for a period of 10-days.

Read more: Hamilton reports 152 new COVID-19 cases, specialist says workplaces still susceptible to infections

She said the order should ensure public health receives information about possible outbreaks much more quickly.

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“Not everybody lives in Hamilton. And on a case-by-case basis, we only get the ones that are reported to us in Hamilton coming through right away. It takes until another health unit’s done their investigation and flagged it to us in order to get that information to us. Often the employer will see that sooner.”

The order does not apply to schools and school boards, licenced child care providers, and health care providers.

Read more: Toronto orders 4 full, 7 partial workplace closures under new COVID-19 order

Some workplaces will be exempt from being fully closed, including essential services like emergency responders, infrastructure services, and shelters.

Of Hamilton’s 38 active outbreaks, 17 of them are in workplaces.

The largest ones are at Aryzta/Oakrun Farm Bakery on Fiddlers Green Road, which has 39 cases, while National Steel Car’s outbreak involves 31 employees.

The order from Hamilton public health follows similar moves in other regions, including Toronto and Peel, where there have been massive workplace outbreaks.

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