Patients on the unit where influenza has been found will only be allowed two visitors per person. (Supplied by HPHA).
The flu has arrived.
The Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance has declared an outbreak at the Clinton Hospital.
Two of four patients have tested positive for influenza and are being treated.
The unit where the patients are being treated has been closed to admissions and transfers and visitors are limited to only two per patient.
If you are visiting the hospital remember the best way to combat spreading the flu is to wash your hands and stay away if you’re not feeling well according to Infection Control Practitioner Larry Morrell, “With flu now starting to arrive in the Huron and Perth communities, we’d like to remind the public there are several things that can be done to protect yourself and others from contracting influenza.”
Morrell adds, “Get a flu shot, which is still available from your family doctor and local pharmacies; wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based sanitizer; if you are not feeling well please stay home and rest; keep commonly touched surfaces clean and cough or sneeze into your sleeve.”
The HPHA will continue to monitor the outbreak and will update the public as needed.
More than a million Canadians are still under- or unemployed as a result of COVID-19, but the crisis also allowed others, who were easily able to work from home, save more money. 2:34
In western Quebec, residents are also being asked to stay home unless it’s essential and not see anyone they don’t live with to ease the “very critical” load on hospitals and avoid more delayed surgeries.
An exception for people living alone allows them to exclusively visit one other home.
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Distancing and isolating
The novel coronavirus primarily spreads through droplets when an infected person speaks, coughs, sneezes, or breathes onto someone or something. These droplets can hang in the air.
People can be contagious without symptoms.
This means it’s important to take precautions like staying home while symptomatic, keeping hands and frequently touched surfaces clean and maintaining distance from anyone you don’t live with — even with a mask on.
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Anyone returning to the community on the Canadian side of the international border who’s been farther than 160 kilometres away — or visited Montreal — for non-essential reasons is asked to self-isolate for 14 days.
Some provinces have used up nearly all their vaccine supply and have been forced to push back their vaccination schedules.
Saskatchewan announced Sunday that it had exhausted all the doses it received. However, even after technically running out, the province still managed to vaccinate another 304 people as it continued to draw extra doses from the vials it received. It had administered 102 per cent of its allotted doses by Monday, and it expected the remaining excess doses to be gone this week.
Quebec has used up more than 90 per cent of its supply. It confirmed that the delivery delay would force it to postpone its vaccination rollout in private seniors’ residences, which had been scheduled to start Monday.
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“Let’s be realistic: our vaccination momentum will be reduced as of this week,” Marjaurie Cote-Boileau, press secretary to Health Minister Christian Dube, said in a text message.
“Given the important reduction of Pfizer doses we’ll receive in the next two weeks, we have had to review our vaccination calendar.”
Quebec finished giving first doses to long-term care residents last week and has vaccinated some 9,000 seniors in private homes by using leftover doses. The province gave less than 2,000 shots Sunday, compared to an average of more than 9,600 a day over the previous week.
In British Columbia, the provincial health officer said the government is extending the interval between the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Dr. Bonnie Henry said further delays in the production and delivery of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine over the next two weeks caused the time period between the shots to be extended from 35 days to 42.
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COVID-19 may have brought Canadians together in many ways, but a
number of issues surrounding the pandemic have proven to be
divisive on some level. Masking policies, stay at home orders, the
forced shut down of many businesses, government compensation
schemes or the lack thereof, testing rates, and delays have brought
on many a heated debate. The rollout of vaccines – who gets
them first, how they are administered, and the shortage of this
highly in-demand product – is the issue dominating press
conferences and front pages at this point. As we see COVID vaccines
deployed across the Province of Ontario, the emerging debate is
whether or not employers can mandate that employees be vaccinated.
An important question, so far without a clear answer.
Like so many legal issues raised with COVID, there is no clear
precedent. Helpful, though not determinative, is the caselaw
dealing with “Mask or Vaccinate” influenza policies in
the health care setting. Employers implemented policies
mandating that workers either get the flu vaccine or wear a mask
throughout their shift. Unions challenged these policies and a
number of arbitral decisions addressed whether such policies were
in violation of the collective agreement. Unfortunately, these
decisions are divided.
Some arbitrators (see Health Employers Assn. of
British Columbia v. the Health Sciences
Assn1 and North Bay General Hospital v ONA2) found the employer’s policy
compliant, citing provisions of the collective agreement that
specifically addressed vaccinations during an outbreak, directions
from the Ministry of Health to employers to implement an influenza
protocol, expert evidence supporting vaccination rates amongst
health care workers and transmission of influenza to the patients,
and the existence of the alternative of masking. In other decisions
(see Sault Area Hospital and Ontario Nurses’
Association3, St Peter’s Health System v
CUPE, Local 7784 and St. Michael’s
Hospitalv Ontario Nurses’
Association5), arbitrators found the policy in
violation of the collective agreement citing a lack of
“consensus” on vaccinating and masking and the prevention
and control of influenza, a lack of mandating of the policy by a
Medical Officer of Health or regulatory body, and that the
scientific evidence available was insufficient to support a
requirement for employees to wear masks for up to six months every
year. In the St. Michael’s Hospital case, the
Arbitrator stated that the evidence supporting a masking mandate
was “insufficient, inadequate, and completely
I can clearly see some distinguishing aspects between the
influenza ‘Mask or Vaccinate’ policies and the situation
currently facing employers and workers in health care settings.
COVID is much more infectious and deadly, vaccines are much more
effective (95%6 vs. 20-60%7), and there has
already been considerable research on the transmission of the virus
and the efficacy of the vaccine.
Only one arbitral decision has been released to date dealing
with mandatory COVID testing in a retirement home. Christian
Labour Association of Canada v Caressant Care Nursing
& Retirement Homes8 dealt with an
employer’s policy that staff be tested every 2 weeks for COVID.
An employee refused to be tested and was placed on unpaid leave. In
this case, the Arbitrator upheld the policy, finding that the
testing requirement, even though it was intrusive to the
individual, was reasonable in light of all of the
Ontario does have a precedent for mandatory vaccination. The
public school system requires students to submit evidence of their
updated vaccines9, although there are limited exemptions
for medical reasons and religious beliefs. Medical reasons require
a “Statement of Medical Exemption” form to be submitted,
signed by a doctor or nurse practitioner, and submitted to the
local public health unit. The reason for the exemption must be
indicated, such as a medical condition that prevents the child from
receiving the vaccine. The religious belief exemption requires an
education session to be completed at the local public health unit
covering basic information about vaccine safety, immunization and
community health, and immunization law in Ontario. A ‘Statement
of Conscience or Religious Belief’ form must be completed,
signed by a commissioner for taking affidavits in Ontario, and
submitted to the local public health unit. These exemptions act to
accommodate legitimate human rights that arise with such a
mandatory vaccination program for grounds of disability and creed
under Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
So, will Ontario employers be able to mandate COVID
vaccinations? That answer seems clear – no employer can
physically force an employee to be vaccinated. However, where
employers implement mandatory vaccination programs, and employees
refuse to comply, what can be done? Can employees be put on unpaid
leave? Be disciplined? Or terminated? Will employers be expected to
try to find alternative work? Will they allow employees to work
It will take time, but we will eventually see policy grievances
in a unionized setting and challenges for terminations for a cause
in both unionized and non-unionized settings where employees are
terminated for refusing to vaccinate. While the jury is still out,
I expect decision-makers will try to provide as much of a balancing
act as possible between individual’s human rights, privacy, and
bodily integrity vs. the health and safety needs of the public,
co-workers, and clients/patients/customers.
I expect that mandatory vaccination programs and terminations
will be upheld in workplaces providing direct care, particularly of
a vulnerable population in a congregate living situation, subject
to human rights exemptions. The public school exemption program is
a solid example of the type of protocol that I can see being
Less clear in my mind is whether close physical workspaces like
those in the manufacturing and construction settings will be
subject to enforceable mandatory vaccination programs and
terminations for cause. Unionized settings will likely face
even greater resistance.
Lastly, much more ‘sterile’ work settings, like offices,
where options exist for many employees to work remotely, offer up
much more room for debate on an employer’s ability to terminate
for cause. While I expect employers may be able to place employees
off on an unpaid leave where an employee refuses to vaccinate in a
working environment where COVID can be transmitted, I am doubtful
cause will be established on terminations. In non-unionized
workplaces, employers may be looking at terminations without cause
if they are not prepared to employ someone who refuses to be
vaccinated, subject to human rights.
Like so many legal issues raised with COVID, we will need to
wait and see if the government enacts any mandatory vaccine
legislation (which it has said it is not intending to do) and the
release of arbitral and court decisions before employers have any
certainty about their right to demand that employees submit to
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