A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared a Kingston construction site, says the medical officer of health for the region.
According to Dr. Kieran Moore, as of Tuesday, there are 32 COVID-19 cases associated with the site, making it the largest workplace COVID-19 outbreak seen in the region.
“I’m fairly certain we’ll have more positives throughout the week. We’re already actually starting to see secondary spread to family members,” Moore said in a call with members of the media Tuesday.
Moore would not identify the site, but said there were 110 regular workers at the location, and about 800 sub-contractors who went through the build over the last two weeks.
In an email, the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, Local 249, confirmed that the All Seniors Care jobsite at the Midland Avenue and Princess Street intersection in Kingston has been closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak.
“From our perspective, what happened here is a clear example of the risks that construction workers, like all other essential workers, are having to run during this pandemic and we urge the government to make sure that all essential jobsites are as safe as they can be and that vaccines be made available to the workers on these jobsites as quickly as possible,” a statement from the union said.
The Ministry of Labour said it was notified of the outbreak Tuesday, and the employer is Pomerleau Construction. Pomerleau has yet to offer comment for this story, nor has it confirmed its site is the at the centre of the outbreak.
During his media briefing Tuesday, Moore said all 110 regular onsite workers have been tested, but the health unit is still working on making sure the other subcontractors, many of which were called in from across the province, are tested as well.
“We know they’re not all from our jurisdiction. So they won’t all affect our numbers because some of the workers were from Toronto or Ottawa or Leeds, Grenville,” he said.
As of 1 p.m. Tuesday, the health unit recorded 26 new cases in the region, and Moore said he expected to see more as the day went on.
Still, Moore said he believes that safety protocols on site were followed, and that the company has kept accurate records of all workers who were on site.
“We’ve had great cooperation from the company, that they followed the safety precautions and had recommended masking. They have strict screening. They cohort their workers while on break and while on the workplace, they support testing and time off when needed for their workers. And they have had regular inspections,” he said.
Moore said the company decided to close the site while the health unit monitors and tests the rest of the workers associated, and even those workers who tested negative will continue to quarantine.
Moore said the quick spike in cases might cause a rise in admissions for local hospitals in the coming weeks and could increase the risk of community spread.
“We’re anticipating that our risk in KFLA will remain high for the next several weeks, that there will be ongoing community transmission, there will be a risk of transmission in family settings and in multigenerational homes. And I’m quite concerned about this change in events in our community,” he said.
Currently, under the province’s stay-at-home order, essential construction is still allowed. Moore said it’s only natural that large construction sites would bring in workers from across the province, but that this poses a great risk to the community.
“We’re working with the construction company, the Ministry of Labor to try to learn from this and have prevention strategies in the future,” he said.
He said some added safety measures could be on-site testing, pushing workers to get asymptomatic testing and finally, to get construction workers vaccinated.
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