Written By Carl Cunningham and Haley Zerr
Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health announced on March 9, 2022 the Province's plan for lifting the majority of the remaining COVID-19 related public health and workplace safety measures. This announcements comes just a couple of weeks after several measures were lifted on March 1, 2022, including the mandatory proof of vaccination requirements for all settings, lifting of capacity restrictions and the movement from active to passive screening of persons attending the workplace.
Key Measures Lifting on March 21, 2022
The following additional COVID-19 safety measures will be lifted on March 21, 2022:
- Masks –No longer required for a majority of settings. The exceptions would be for public transit, health care settings, long-term care homes, shelters, jails and congregate care settings.
- Screening – Elimination of employer's obligation to conduct passive screening for COVID-19.
- Safety Plans – Elimination of employer's obligation to have a COVID-19 safety plan.
- Other regulatory requirements for businesses - Eliminated.
While public health guidance requiring the above measures may be lifting on March 21, employers and business remain free to continue to implement the above measures as part of their duty to take all reasonable steps to protect the health and safety of their workers.
Key Next Steps
As of April 27, Ontario intends to remove the remaining masking requirements and lift any remaining emergency orders under the Reopening Ontario Act.
New Isolation Guidelines
The rules regarding isolation in the event of exposure to a positive case of COVID-19 have also changed. Employers may wish to update their own protocols regarding responding to potential exposures in the workplace in light of this updated guidance:
Going forward, non-household close contacts, regardless of vaccination status, are no longer required to isolate. A close contact is anyone someone was within less than 2-metres distance from for at least 15 minutes. However, for 10 days after exposure, all close contacts should:
- self-monitor for symptoms;
- wear a mask;
- not visit anyone who is at a higher risk of illness; and
- not visit or attend work in high-risk settings (such as health care or congregate settings) unless previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days.
Household close contacts will still need to isolate in accordance with the current requirements unless they:
- previously tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days;
- are 18 or older with a booster dose; or
- are under 18 years old and are fully vaccinated.
The Bennett Jones Employment Services Group is available to discuss how this most recent round of changes may impact your business.