For the second time in two days, an employee at a Guelph grocery store has been diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s the latest case for the Royal City as the global pandemic continues to collect newly inflicted people at breakneck pace, and as medical authorities in Ontario continue to call for people to do everything they can to stay away from each other.
The news was posted on the Facebook page of Domenic’s NoFrills, the branch of the Loblaw-owned grocery chain on Harvard Road in the city’s south end. The unidentified employee was last in the store on March 18, but No Frills has found closed on Monday by shoppers so that a thorough cleaning of the store can be done. In the statement, the store’s management said that the safety of the public is their top priority.
“We have a number of protocols in place at the store-level, including daily sanitization and social distancing practices to minimize the risk of exposure to our customers and employees,” read the Facebook post. “Additionally, the store has been closed now for a thorough cleaning. We expect to be reopened tomorrow.”
On Sunday, the Guelph Longo’s location revealed that an employee there had been diagnosed with COVID-19. That employee hadn’t worked since March 24, and like No Frills, the store was closed to undergo a more thorough cleaning. Public Health is co-ordinating with the store to find all the employees that might have had contact with their COVID-19 afflicted colleague.
“It’s very worrisome, and I think that we will continue to hear these stories.” said Debora De Angelis, the Ontario regional director for the United Food and Commercial Workers union on this week’s Guelph Politicast.
De Angelis said that she’s taking calls from workers deemed essential but who are non-unionized, and she says some of them are afraid to voice their health and safety concerns to their employer.
“We have workers who are fearing that they will lose their job if they bring these issues forward,” De Angelis explained. “I’ve been told by workers who’ve indicated that they have an elderly parent at home, and feel that they should go home and self isolate, and they’ve been told by their employer, ‘Why don’t you just go home and permanently self-isolate?'”
Some employers like Loblaw have address worker safety, and have even increased the pay of store employees working as an essential service. De Angelis praises such moves, saying that better conditions for workers in the service industry is the silver lining to COVID’s dark cloud.
“A lot of good things are happening out of a bad situation, and I think we’re starting to have this realization about the important work that these workers do that was never before deemed valuable,” De Angelis said. “We are having a second look at these jobs and we’re saying that these are these are really important jobs, and the health and safety of employees needs to be taken seriously.”
According to the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health updated website with COVID-19 information, they have 26 cases in their coverage area with 18 new cases alone in the last 48 hours. Guelph is home to 13 of those cases with another four in Wellington County and eight in Dufferin County. So far, Public Health has at least one resolved case of COVID-19.
With numbers on the rise, the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Ontario released a statement today that said that while the Province has taken decisive action to help slow the spread of the disease, there’s still a lot more work to be done to “flatten the curve.”
“Everyone has a role to play in reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19 – there is no option for anyone to opt out,” said Dr. David Williams. “The lives of many Ontarians, especially our community’s most vulnerable citizens, is in your hands and will depend on your actions over the coming days and weeks.”
Dr. Williams is again recommending for people to restrict their movements out-of-doors to going to medical appointments, grocery shopping, picking up a prescription, walking a pet, or doing any of the above for an elderly neighbour or loved one. If you do have to go out, you’re strongly encouraged to limit the number of trips you make.
“Given the greater risk of severe outcomes to Ontarians who are elderly, I am also strongly recommending that individuals over 70 years of age self-isolate,” Dr. Williams said. “This means only leaving home or seeing other people for essential reasons. Where possible, you should seek services over the phone or internet or ask for help from friends, family or neighbours with essential errands.
“This also applies to individuals who have compromised immune systems and/or underlying medical conditions,” he added.
It seems like this is a message that’s still not reaching everyone if this post on social media by Guelph Transit is any indication.