Our estimation is that over the next 2 weeks we will continue to see an increase in cases as the backlog of tests are being processed. The backlog has now been reduced from over 10,000 cases to just slightly over 3100 as of 30 March 2020. People should be aware that positive tests from these batches are classed as “historical positive tests”, in order words, the person was positive for COVID 19 between 7-10 days previous (when the tests were actuaclly completed), we still expect to see an increase in positive tests over the next few weeks as more tests are being administered and people being screened. There have been some further announcements by provincial governments this week, travel to NWT is no longer allowed and anyone travelling to PEI, NS, NL must self isolate for 14 days (there are exemptions for trade and essential services). The federal government has announced some 107 billion dollars in aid (mainly in the form of tax deferrals and limited income support) and the regulations are expected to pass this coming Tuesday. Wage subsidies have been announced and firms must apply thru their “my account Portal” at the Revenue Canada Website. Travel bans to USA are now in place with some limited exemptions. Further information on each program will be sent out once they are approved by Parliament.
The government of Ontario will be updating the “essential services” listing and we expect it to be released to the public within days. Different cities and municipalities have put in place their own restrictions, please check with your local jurisdiction to see what restrictions are in place.
RMG has received many calls regarding potential employee exposure in the workplace, Employers need to have a plan on how to respond, this plan should include isolation of the area, proper cleaning and sanitization, communication to other employees and monitoring of infected employee. Guidance provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and adapted by the Ontario Government recommend against using employees to disinfect workplaces, employees are not trained to deal with these issues, may not have proper equipment or PPE and the risk of exposing another employee to potential exposure is to great. All people dealing with sanitization programs in the workplace should have infection control techniques training. Should you have a potential or confirmed exposure at your workplace please contact our office for assistance.
During this period we must also keep in mind that the unknown is one of our greatest challenges, we must act out of an abundance of caution, while some measures may seem extreme at this point, it is much easier to look back and say “we didn’t need to do this or that” versus saying “I wish we would have done this or that”
Employee stress levels are increasing across all sectors, with horror stories being posted across social media, internet and lack of clarity from other parties some employees are fearful of coming into work, maintaining their livelihood and protecting their families. Mental health is as important as physical health, if an employee is stressed or scared while at work, then their hands and minds are not on the tasks they are performing and are at a higher risk of injuring themselves or others. Ensure that each and every employee understands that there are numerous mental health groups they can reach out to, resources available thru the federal and provincial governments or in some cases your internal benefit programs.
There has been some discussion in the business community of shutting down facilities, at this point RMG is recommending against this for 2 reasons, (a) temporary layoff’s are seen to be 13 weeks or less (they may be extended to 20 weeks under some circumstances), as we do not know for sure how long this event will last, layoffs that end up exceeding the 13 week period will become permanent under the Act and will trigger time in “lieu of notice” and severance payments to the worker(s) which may present a financial burden to the company and (b) prior to the event there was an acute labour shortage in Ontario, we expect that afthe event it will actually be worse, recovering from this event will mean having good, key employees in place, ready to work and fufill client demands, losing these people may end up costing you more in the long term for what may be limited short term gain. Our advice is to take a wait and see posture over the next 2-4 weeks, consider other options such as vacation, remote working or irregular scheduling before making decisions that may have impacts past the current event. Should you need to realign staff please contact our office and we will be able to assist you in:
- Developing job sharing programs,
- Applying for different government relief programs,
- Reduced work week programs
Should you decide to proceed with staff reductions, please let us know so we can assist you with the process and help employees file for benefits (there was over 1012,000 applications for EI benefits alone in the past 15 days), Please also note while programs were announced to support those who may not otherwise qualify for EI, these programs will not be available until the 1st week of April.
Supplies: Basic supplies remain hard to get, RMG will continue to provide whatever assistance we can during our site audits and facility visits to ensure clients are able to meet basic infection control/ prevention guidelines.
Risk Management: Beginning late last week, RMG was completing COVID 19 Risk Management audits along with site/facility audits, these will continue and sent electronically throughout the week d this practice will continue as long as required.
Security: Should you decide to close or reduce hours at your facility, you should be looking at the security procedures you have in place and if they would be adequate if the site/facility is unattended, unfortunately as we have seen during other events, some people take advantage of the increased burden of first responders and property crimes increase. If you are unsure about your current security procedures being adequate please contact our office and we can assist you in conducting physical security risk assessments, additionally we do have sufficient static and mobile protection officers to meet increased demands.
The next four weeks will be seen as the critical phase and our expectation is that more government aid will be forthcoming, stricter isolation methods will be ordered by both provincial and federal governments and methods for enforcement will be increased As company leadership, your employees will be looking to you for guidance and information, it is imperative that we react in a calm, focused and factual manner, provide information that is accurate ensure our employees, vendors, clients and contractors that we are addressing the issues as they arise and will communicate changes in a fast but responsible manner. If as leadership, we panic, then expect everyone else to panic as well.
RMG has activated our emergency response center last week and staff are available to assist all our clients on a 24/7 basis.
Should you have any questions, require immediate assistance please contact our office.
Stephen Patterson, ACP, PA (Surg.), A-EMCA
Raven Management Group