Ottawa

Workplace outbreaks trending up, says Renfrew County's top doctor

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak at an aerospace company in Arnprior, Ont., Renfrew County's health unit is expressing concern about a worrying trend of positive cases in workplaces.

Outbreak at Arnprior Aerospace Inc. currently being investigated

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit is currently testing all employees at Arnprior Aerospace Inc. after four employees tested positive last week. (Google)

In the midst of a COVID-19 outbreak at an aerospace company in Arnprior, Ont., Renfrew County's health unit is expressing concern about a worrying trend of positive cases in workplaces.

The Renfrew County and District Health Unit is currently testing all employees at Arnprior Aerospace Inc., after declaring an outbreak that involves at least four positive cases among the firm's workforce.

All the positive cases involve variants of concern, according to Dr. Robert Cushman, acting medical officer of health for the region.

Cushman said he believes the outbreak is connected to family members of the employees. Given the workforce numbers more than 100, it's a situation the health unit is watching very closely, Cushman said.

Testing will take place over the next few days.

"We consider this a challenge, and we want to limit the spread as best as we can," he said.

Workplace standards slipping, says Cushman

Cushman said the health unit is seeing a lot of workplace outbreaks, predominantly at smaller businesses. With the presence of COVID-19 variants, the fear is cases will spread to family members and expand the reach of outbreaks. 

"I just don't think the [workplace] standards are as high as they should be," Cushman said. "I think there have been some problems right from beginning to end."

As an example, Cushman said there have been reports of people working on construction sites without wearing masks.

"This is a concern," he said. "And I think this is where the bulk of our cases are coming from."

The health unit's region has a small population spread out over a large area, and unlike Ottawa, it doesn't have the same resources to ensure businesses are complying with public health measures, Cushman said.

Even so, Ottawa is still seeing its fair share of workplace outbreaks, with 267 positive cases during April alone listed on the city's COVID-19 dashboard.

This includes restaurant and office type workplaces, as well as manufacturing, distribution and retail.

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