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34 COVID-19 cases connected to construction site outbreak, says Kingston health

Click to play video: 'Construction workers stress the importance of getting vaccinated after the largest workplace outbreak happens at a Kingston site' Construction workers stress the importance of getting vaccinated after the largest workplace outbreak happens at a Kingston site
WATCH:A COVID-19 outbreak at a Kingston construction site now has 34 cases associated with it, says KFL&A Public Health. Construction workers are urging the province to speed up the vaccination process. – May 5, 2021

KFL&A Public Health announced another large jump in COVID-19 cases Wednesday, with 19 added to the region’s active case counts.

This comes a day after the health unit announced a major outbreak at a Kingston construction project, the All Seniors Care jobsite at the Midland Avenue and Princess Street intersection run by Pomerleau.

The outbreak was declared May 2, and has affected 34 people as of Wednesday, seven of whom are out of region.

On Tuesday, Dr. Kieran Moore, medical officer of health for the region, made clear that the site was host to upwards of 900 workers over the last several weeks, including many from out of the region.

Read more: Major COVID-19 outbreak linked to Kingston construction site, 32 cases associated

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According to KFL&A, this is the largest work-related outbreak the region has seen since the start of the pandemic.

Calls for construction workers to be moved up in the COVID-19 vaccination priority list echo throughout the region.

Shawn Lovett, business agent for United Association Local 401, the union representing plumbers, steamfitters, and welders in Eastern Ontario, says that it’s exhausting working long hours and trying to keep safe.

“Even though we’re all being told we need to stay home and isolate, we need to do our best to stay put to flatten the curve, our people that are working on these job sites are being asked to be there longer, be there more often, be there as the population increases,” Lovett said.

Click to play video: 'Kingston construction site closed for 14 days following COVID-19 outbreak' Kingston construction site closed for 14 days following COVID-19 outbreak
Kingston construction site closed for 14 days following COVID-19 outbreak – May 4, 2021

The unclear exact date on when construction workers will get vaccinated is causing anxiety to rise.

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“I would like to see that anyone who shows up at a vaccination centre with a high-vis shirt and a hard hat on gets a needle,” Lovett said.

Read more: Ontario begins expanded COVID-19 vaccine rollout this week

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters, Local 249 represents some of the workers at the outbreak site.

“From our perspective, what happened here is a clear example of the risks that construction workers, like all essential workers, are having to run during this pandemic,” said Adam Gillis, a union representative.

Because the outbreak occurred in the Kingston region, KFL&A Public Health is taking the lead on contact tracing, even for those who live elsewhere in the province. The region’s medical officer of health has confirmed that workers from places like Toronto, Ottawa and Leeds Grenville Lanark had been on-site in recent weeks.

“We’re gonna learn from this, and we’re going to try to prevent this in the future. We only have permission this month to start immunizing these workers, and we’re gonna be aggressively trying to make vaccines accessible when the province allows us,” Dr. Moore said.

Click to play video: 'Queen’s University announces another COVID-19 outbreak at two residences' Queen’s University announces another COVID-19 outbreak at two residences
Queen’s University announces another COVID-19 outbreak at two residences – Apr 26, 2021

Once the outbreak was declared, Pomerleau contacted the Ministry of Labour to investigate the incident. On Wednesday, the ministry said the investigation was closed, but did not offer any details about the outcome of the investigation.

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Moore said he believes the construction company followed all safety protocols, but the final say lies with the ministry.

With seven recoveries, the Kingston region now has 121 active cases of COVID-19.

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