After seeing a steady decline all through spring, COVID-19 case numbers are rising again.
Increase in hospitalizations, number of people testing positive, and COVID-19 levels in wastewater – all indicate a resurgence of the virus. Due to this, Ontario opened up its eligibility for fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to all adults aged 18 and up on July 14, 2022. Bivalent vaccines that target Omicron subvariants are expected in Fall and healthy adults are being advised to wait till Fall to get their second booster dose.
Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has said this seventh wave of the pandemic is expected to peak over the next two weeks. However, the province is not reintroducing the public health measures that were removed earlier this year. Dr. Moore has advised Ontarians to continue masking indoors in crowded settings. The slow ascent of this new wave has been attributed to the high vaccination rates and availability of antiviral treatments.
Ontario lifted its masking requirements for most settings, including public transit, on June 11, 2022. However, masks continue to be a requirement in long-term care homes and retirement homes. Businesses are free to follow their own policies on masking and vaccination. They are no longer required to have a COVID-19 Safety Plan in place.
With key public health and health care indicators showing improvement earlier this year, Ontario had lifted its proof of vaccination requirements for all settings on March 1, 2022. The province started easing COVID-19 public health measures in a phased manner from January 31, 2022. Businesses in Ontario have been free to recall their remote staff back to the physical office since January 27, 2022.
You can find some frequently asked questions that employers may have about changes to public health measures below:
What is the latest guidance on face masks?
On June 11, 2022, masking requirements were removed in most settings in Ontario (with the exception of long-term care homes and retirement homes).
This means that employers in the province can allow their staff members to stop wearing masks while on the job as they see fit. As with the vaccination policies, employers can still choose to have their staff wear masks at all times while at work, only while interacting with patrons, or any other compromise they wish. Employers can even continue to require customers to wear their face coverings while on the business premises.
What other restrictions have been lifted?
On March 14, 2022, mandatory vaccination policies for employees working in long-term care homes, schools, hospitals, and other high-risk settings expired. This means being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is no longer a condition of employment in these sectors.
It is worth noting that private businesses do not have to follow this guideline; these companies may choose to continue implementing their vaccination policies for their staff or stop imposing them at any time.
What health and safety measures should I follow to keep my staff safe during this new wave?
It is important to remember that while COVID-19 restrictions are now lifted, employers continue to have a duty under health and safety legislation to provide a safe workplace for all employees. Given that case numbers are rising again, employers should continue to implement COVID-19 precautionary measures such as physical distancing and hand hygiene. Private businesses in all jurisdictions may want to continue to:
- Require employees to wear masks at work
- Require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in accordance with a COVID-19 vaccine policy
- Require employees to participate in COVID-19 testing at the workplace
- Require employees to undergo passive and/or active screening before entering the workplace
So long as the requirement is reasonable in the circumstances.
Do you need help developing health and safety policies for your business?
As a trusted HR and health & safety consulting company, Peninsula serves over 5,000 small businesses across Canada. Peninsula’s clients receive ongoing updates of their workplace documentation and policies as legislation changes. They also benefit from 24/7 employer HR advice and are supported by legal assistance.
To learn more about our services, call us today at (1) 833-247-3652.