39 businesses shut down after evidence of COVID-19 transmission in past 2 weeks
Public health order allows WorkSafeBC to serve closure notices when 3 or more employees test positive
At least 39 businesses have been shut down since early April after evidence of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, the vast majority of which are located in the Lower Mainland.
Most of the workplaces, 31 of them, were closed after a new provincial health order that came into effect April 12 and allows WorkSafeBC to serve closure notices to workplaces when three or more employees test positive for COVID-19.
Since then, 29 businesses have been shut down in the Fraser Health region alone including five restaurants, four gyms, kitchen furnishing stores, retail stores, a farm, manufacturing plants, a resort and a Service B.C. location in Maple Ridge.
In the Vancouver Coastal Health region, a boxing gym has been closed down since the new order, while eight other businesses, mostly restaurants had already been shut down in early April.
A Club Phoenix Fitness centre in Victoria has also been ordered to shut down for 10 days. There haven't been any closures in Northern Health so far.
WorkSafeBC has no role in deciding which workplaces will be served with a closure order. The decision to close a workplace is made by a medical health officer and notices are then delivered by WorkSafeBC or by environmental health officers of the respective health authorities.
The closure notices don't specify how many employees at each location were infected.
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the workplace order after B.C. recorded 1,293 new COVID-19 cases on April 8, breaking a previously held single-day record.
Since then, the seven-day average of daily cases has remained above 1,000.
The province released data on cases associated to workplace clusters last week showing that approximately 300 cases of COVID-19 were associated with workplace clusters in Vancouver Coastal Health In February and March.
Those workplace-related cases represent approximately 3.6 per cent of the total 8,291 cases recorded in the health region in those months.
VCH says that in the case of complex workplaces, such as large construction sites, the closure may only be in effect for parts of the workplace where transmission occurred.
Once businesses receive a closure notice, environmental health officers or WorkSafe BC help the workplace "review and enhance safety plans," according to VCH. Contact tracing of cases and close contacts is also ongoing during the closure. The worksite may need to be inspected during the closure or when it reopens.
"By closing these workplaces, we can prevent additional workers from becoming infected and taking COVID-19 home to their families and their communities," reads the VCH and Fraser Health websites.
- An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the new provincial health order allows WorkSafeBC to shut down workplaces when three or more employees test positive for COVID-19. In fact, WorkSafeBC can only issue closure notices and the decision to close a workplace is made by a medical health officer.Apr 20, 2021 10:38 AM PT