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Workplace screening mandatory as region looks to slow spread of COVID-19

All workplaces in Waterloo Region are required to carry out screening of employees as public health officials look to curb spikes in the number of coronavirus cases.

“All businesses are now required to screen workers and essential visitors entering the work environment. At the beginning of their day, their shift or when an essential visitor arrives,” medical officer of health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said Friday in a videoconference briefing, adding the mandate applies to “any place where there are workers.”

Her announcement follows the province’s increase in workplace inspections to combat the spread of the virus.

In addition to temperature checks, sanitizing workstations, office areas, lunchrooms, breakrooms and maintaining physical distancing are now all workplace requirements. Tables are to be spread out by two metres in both lunchrooms and break rooms with staggered seating at tables to help keep physical distancing possible. Microwaves and toasters should also be spread out by two metres.

Masks remain mandatory in workplaces for those that can wear them.

Wang advises businesses to check with the Ministry of Labour’s website for guidance broken down by sector.

Though there has been little correlation between workplaces and increases in COVID-19 cases, health officials are acting from an abundance of caution, she said.

“I don’t want to wait until we have a bunch of outbreaks. These are areas of risk that we’ve noticed in in workplaces, even if single cases then don’t result in further spread. So that’s why I want to point them out now, so that we can all do everything we can to avoid further spread in such settings.”

She pointed to an outbreak at Wilfrid Laurier University that had 16 connected cases by week’s end. The outbreak is one of ten active in the region, including five at long-term care and retirement homes. Wang stressed the importance of remaining vigilant to keep numbers in these environments low.

“These are cases that have been associated either to previously linked study groups or are close contacts of cases themselves. And now our investigation is ongoing, and the numbers will be updated on a daily basis,” said Wang.

There are currently 101 active cases of COVID-19 in the region, with a cumulative total of 1,954 since the first case was discovered. Of those, 1,733 (89 per cent) have been deemed resolved.

Neighbouring Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph currently has 49 active cases of the virus, with the catchment area having seen 760 since the pandemic’s beginning. Overall that region has seen a recovery rate of 88%, with 671 cases being resolved.

Province-wide, an additional 712 cases in the past day brings the total to 62,908, of which 54,004 people have recovered from the virus, a recovery rate of 85.8 per cent. There have been 3,031 fatalities, representing 4.8 per cent of those infected.

Nationally, there have been a total of 191,732 cases reported, of which 161,490 have recovered (84.2 per cent). Some 9,700 Canadians have lost their lives to the virus.

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