Ciena closes Ottawa offices after employee tests positive for COVID-19

Technology company Ciena has temporarily shutdown its offices in Kanata after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

Networking technology company employs 1,700 people in Ottawa

Ciena has closed its Ottawa offices on Terry Fox Drive after one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, the company said. (Michel Aspirot/CBC)

Technology company Ciena closed its offices in Kanata Wednesday after an employee tested positive for the coronavirus.

Nicole Anderson, vice-president for corporate communications with Ciena, said the employee travelled overseas for a vacation and is now confirmed to have COVID-19.

Ciena's Ottawa campus will remain closed until next week, she said.

Only one person in the city has so far tested positive for the virus, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) said late Wednesday afternoon. 

That person, a man in his 40s, had recently returned from a trip to Austria and is in self-isolation.

Anderson confirmed the Ciena employee fits that description. He travelled to Austria with two colleagues who work at the company's Ottawa office, she said. 

All of Ciena's roughly 1,700 employees in Ottawa are working remotely until March 17, a date roughly two weeks after the employee was last in the office.

"We made this decision out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of protecting the health and well-being of our employees and their families," Anderson said in an email to CBC.

In the meantime, the company is performing a "thorough cleaning and sanitizing" of its entire Ottawa campus, she said.

Employees 'a little bit nervous' 

Aziz Khan, a senior IT analyst with Ciena, said employees began leaving the building after lunch Wednesday to work from home. 

"Some of the employees are a little bit nervous," he said from his car as he left work. "I'm a little bit nervous as well. I have two kids at home and so I'm worried about them more than me."

Khan said he did not know the sick employee.

OPH said it's still trying to determine whom the man with COVID-19 might have come into contact with.

Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, noted Wednesday the man did not have symptoms on his flight home, and therefore posed little risk to other passengers on the plane.

OPH does not believe the man took public transit in Ottawa before going into self-isolation, Etches said.

Another technology company in Ottawa, Shopify, announced Wednesday it's asking all its employees around the world to start working remotely as a precautionary measure starting March 16.

"Working from home will help play a part in reducing the spread of the virus, and hopefully lessen its potentially huge burden on the healthcare system," said a tweet from Shopify.


Laura Glowacki is a reporter based in Ottawa. Previously, she worked as a reporter in Winnipeg and as an associate producer for CBC's Metro Morning in Toronto. Find her on Twitter @glowackiCBC and reach her by email at

With files from Hillary Johnstone