Today the Ontario government announced 65 sector-specific guidelines for Ontario workplaces to re-open. While dates for the re-opening have not been announced, the government says these new sector-specific guidelines feature recommended actions employers can begin to plan for as they prepare to adapt to the new reality during COVID-19, including:
- Ways to ensure appropriate physical distancing, like eliminating pay-at-the-door options, holding team meetings outdoors, staggering shift times and using ground markings and barriers to manage traffic flow.
- Changes to the workplace, like installing plexiglass barriers, increasing the air intake on building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to increase air flow, and using boot sanitizing trays.
- Promoting proper workplace sanitation, providing personal protective equipment, substituting dry dusting with vacuuming, ensuring customer-facing staff are given hand sanitizer, providing a place to dispose of sanitizing wipes, and enforcing handwashing before and after breaks.
In addition, 58 new staff will be joining the province’s workplace inspection team to provide guidance and ensure that businesses are adhering to provincial standards.
Our party has responded to this by saying that opening restaurants and other workplaces with health and safety “guidelines” instead of enforceable rules will put people’s health at risk. Allowing individual employers to decide if their employees, customers and suppliers get to be adequately protected is a bad idea that will put people at risk, and hurt us all if it leads to a resurgence of COVID-19. Our caucus has previously called for the government to put in place a robust testing plan, make PPE available, and increase the number of proactive site inspections as a part of the plan to re-open segments of the economy.
Today, the government said auto insurance companies should lower premiums, but has taken no action to cause insurance companies to pass on savings to drivers rather than pocketing huge profits from COVID-19. Our party has called on the government to mandate a three-month 50 per cent discount to auto insurance, and ensure that drivers can defer their reduced payments until after the pandemic if they’ve lost income as a result of COVID-19.
Yesterday evening, the House of Commons fast-tracked and passed the $9-billion student emergency package designed to provide supports to young Canadians impacted by the pandemic. Under the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (CESB), eligible students will receive $1,250 per month from May through August. They will be required to confirm they are looking for summer jobs, with a government-managed job bank helping match students to employment opportunities. The CESB is also being expanded for students with disabilities or dependents, who will receive $2,000 per month.
Life After Fifty has a new, free telephone-based seniors’ activity program offering a variety of fun activities, discussion groups and more. It is available to Windsor-Essex residents over the age of 50. More information can be found here.
Another local resident has lost her life because of COVID-19 and eight temporary foreign farm workers have tested positive for the virus, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported Thursday. As of Thursday morning, Windsor-Essex has 594 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Of those, 186 people have recovered and 50 have died.
Please continue to wash your hands and practice social distancing. Together we will get through this.