Two Amazon facilities in Ontario's Peel Region ordered to partially close due to COVID-19 cases
TORONTO -- Peel Region has ordered the partial closure of two Amazon Fulfillment Centres due to five or more recent COVID-19 cases at the facilities.
On Friday, the Amazon Centre at 8050 Heritage Road in Brampton and the centre at 12724 Coleraine Drive in Bolton were ordered to shut down partially for at least 10 days, under a new workplace order that the region’s top doctor implemented the same day.
“These were two of the workplaces that were identified after the order took effect at midnight yesterday, that had new activity across certain parts of that facility that actually necessitated closure in accordance with this threshold of five cases in the last 14 days,” Peel Region's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Lawrence Loh told CP24 on Saturday.
A partial shutdown applies to a mass dismissal of a shift or work area. Affected workers are required to self-isolate at home during the workplace closure.
Peel Public Health did not confirm how many employees are affected by the shutdown at both facilities.
An Amazon spokesperson told CP24 that three shifts at the Brampton centre and one shift at the Bolton centre were affected by the closures. There are a total of 18 shifts each at both facilities.
“We have done—and are doing—everything we can to support them [employees] and keep them safe through the pandemic, including investing tens of millions of dollars in health and safety measures at our Heritage Road and Bolton facilities, regularly testing all employees multiple times, and providing full pay and benefits to those self-isolating,” the statement read.
“Our most recent round of mandatory testing confirmed a positivity rate of approximately 1 per cent, and there appears to be little risk of spread within our facility.”
Just last month, Peel Public Health forced the same centre in Brampton to close for two weeks due to hundreds of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Peel released the current list of workplace closures on Saturday.
On Tuesday, both Peel and Toronto’s top doctors announced that they would be implementing the orders to reduce coronavirus transmission in workplaces.
Peel Public Health said the new order will not impact schools, hospitals, childcare facilities and other “critical infrastructure,” including electricity generation and distribution.
Loh said Public Health identified nearly 100 workplace outbreaks but roughly half of them meet the criteria for a closure and were actively being resolved. The other workplaces are still being investigated.
“There are 11 that were identified for priority contact and of them two were identified for partial closure that we've discussed, and three had upon our reach actually already proactively closed in order to stop spread and therefore would not be identified under the provisions of this order,” Loh said.
“And then there are six that we're currently actively in further investigation to determine if a closure might be necessary.”
Loh added that most of the businesses under investigation are in the manufacturing and distributing sector.
As of noon on Friday, 35.9 per cent of workplace outbreaks in Peel were in that sector, followed by 12.7 per cent in retail.
Loh also added that very little of the workplace outbreaks in Peel have been connected to wider community spread.
“In the case of workplaces that have been closed and many of the workplace outbreaks that we've seen, we've been investigating, the chains have been limited very much to workplaces to homes and then to workplaces connected to those homes, rather than wider communities,” Loh said.
Meanwhile, Toronto Public Health released a statement on Saturday saying there are approximately 10 workplaces under investigation for potential closures.
“Notification to any workplaces of actions required under the Order are expected to begin from Monday. Toronto Public Health will provide further information on the application of the Order during the media briefing on Monday by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health,” the statement read.
Loh, and several other health officials, have repeatedly said congregate and workplace settings are hot spots for virus transmission in Peel, and more measures are needed by the government to curb spread, including paid sick days.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said the government is planning to make the “best [paid sick leave] program anywhere in North America.”
Currently, sick workers can apply to receive payments through the Canada Recovery and Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
The federal program provides up to $500 per week but requires that people go without pay until their applications are approved.
Ford did not say when the government will make an announcement about paid sick leave.