Niagara Region Public Health is reminding local employers to use health screening and rapid testing to prevent COVID-19 from entering the workplace.
With the Delta variant currently driving a fourth wave in Niagara, there have been 11 workplace outbreaks so far in September. This has required many employees to isolate as close contacts, disrupting business and impeding the economic recovery so many businesses need.
High vaccination uptake by co-workers is the best protection for a workplace. But we know vaccines are not perfect and there are occasional “breakthrough” infections amongst fully vaccinated people. As well, some people can’t be vaccinated, or depending on organizational policy, may choose not to be vaccinated. The next most important strategy to reduce risk of a COVID-19 outbreak is to prevent it from entering the workplace in the first place.
Screening of staff entering the workplace is a requirement of the Reopening Ontario Act under Ontario Regulation 364/20: Rules for Areas in Step 3. Employees should complete a health screening questionnaire before each shift. Screening can be completed prior to entering the workplace using Niagara Region Public Health’s screening tool, or the provincial screening tool for workers and employees. This screening should be validated, meaning that the employer is responsible for reviewing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 for each employee prior to allowing entry, or confirming the completion of the screening tool prior to entry.
Rapid Antigen Testing is an optional measure that can supplement health screening. It’s a nasal swab that can be administered on-site by a trained individual, with results available in approximately 15 minutes. Rapid tests will identify, at best, 50 per cent of infected persons, and so are not a guarantee of safety to the workplace. However, for individuals without COVID-19 symptoms who have passed health screening, rapid testing can add another layer of protection by identifying persons with asymptomatic infection.
Given the limitations of rapid testing, people with symptoms should not be tested using rapid tests. Instead, they should be instructed to isolate after symptoms are identified on health screening, and directed to seek a diagnostic PCR test through an assessment centre or their primary care provider. People testing positive with a rapid test, should also be instructed to isolate and seek a confirmatory diagnostic PCR test.
The Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce is partnering with the province of Ontario to distribute rapid tests for free to interested workplaces in Niagara.COVID-19 guidance for businesses, including screening and rapid testing information, can be accessed on Niagara Region Public Health's website.
Niagara Region Public Health