Amid signs that Ontario’s emergency public health measures are set to be extended into June, a number of COVID-19 outbreaks at residential construction sites has highlighted the debate over what kind of work should be considered essential.
On May 4, an outbreak of 11 cases of COVID-19 resulted in work being stopped at 219 Dundas Developments Inc. (a condo project from Menkes Developments) pursuant to an order from Toronto Public Healthy under the Section 22 powers of the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The Dundas project is reportedly about a year from completion, and is one of four construction sites or companies Toronto Public Health has ordered to close since April 23.
So far in 2021, more than 240 positive tests were connected to construction companies by Toronto Public Health, including such large-scale condominium and rental developers as Menkes Development Inc., Mizrahi Inc., Daniels, Concord Adex and Fitzrovia Real Estate. The outbreaks also show up at concrete forming companies and construction contractors who run the day-to-day operations on the sites such as The Moro Group Inc., Black and McDonald, PCL Constructors and EllisDon Corp.
There are currently 34 workplace outbreaks with 419 active cases in TPH’s warehouse, shipping, distribution and construction category: one third of those were outbreaks were linked to construction sites or companies.
“If we had the appetite for doing a more serious restriction of non-essential workplaces, we could potentially reduce cases much more effectively.” said Ashleigh Tuite, an assistant professor at Dalla Lana School of Public Health, at the University of Toronto. “I suspect the effect of doing something like that [shutting down condo construction] would be pretty dramatic in terms of reducing transmission.”
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