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Workplace Outbreaks

When is an outbreak declared in a workplace?

A workplace outbreak is declared when two or more confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace are linked within a 14-day period. Contact tracing would show that both cases could have reasonably become infected while at the workplace.

What happens when there is an outbreak in a workplace?

As with all confirmed cases, the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU) will complete thorough contact tracing. In addition, the PHU will:

  • Investigate to determine a potential link between cases
  • Provide guidance and recommendations to the workplace related to outbreak measures
  • Provide recommendations to other employees (i.e., testing, self-isolation, self-monitoring)
  • Determine when the outbreak is declared over
  • Perform a walk-through of the workplace

Are the workplaces allowed to remain open while in outbreak?

Yes, it is possible for a workplace to remain open during an outbreak. The decision to remain open or to temporarily close will be made in consultation with the workplace, the Ministry of Labour and PHU. This decision is specific to each situation.

When an outbreak is declared at a workplace, are all staff members considered potential contacts?

No, the PHU helps the case identify who is a close contact and the PHU will follow-up with both high and low risk contacts.

Who is a close contact?

  • Close contacts (or high-risk contacts) may be staff, visitors or clients.
  • Individuals who were within 2 metres of the person with COVID-19 (with or without a mask), for 15 minutes or more.
  • Direct contact with a contagious individual while they coughed or sneezed.
  • For example:
    • Having lunch with a co-worker at the same table while sitting less than 2 metres apart
    • Sharing a drink from the same glass or bottle
    • Working together in a shared space and consider cumulative time spent together in shared spaces.

What should a close contact do?

  • Close contacts must self-isolate for 14 days from their last contact with the case. The PHU helps the case identify who is a close contact and then calls close contacts to instruct them to self-isolate for 14 days from the last time they interacted with the person who tested positive
  • The PHU will provide close contacts with appropriate recommendations for testing
  • You should only leave your home or see other people for critical reasons (like a medical emergency)

Who is a low-risk contact?

  • Staff, visitors, clients who had contact of any length of time with the person with COVID-19, while they were physically distanced by 2 metres or more
  • Occasional interaction where physical distance may or may not have been maintained that lasted a few minutes or less (i.e., quickly walking by each other in the hallway, briefly in the same room together)

What should low-risk contacts do?

  • Low-risk contacts should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days from the last day they were exposed to the person with COVID-19 while they were contagious
  • If low-risk contacts develop symptoms, self-isolate and contact the PHU