On November 7, in response to surging COVID 19 numbers, Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a Public Health Order placing further restrictions on British Columbians residing in the Greater Vancouver Regional District and the Fraser Health District. The order came after BC recorded 589 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and another 567 on Saturday. Dr. Henry noted that the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalization in the last two weeks are the result of transmission in people’s homes and in many workplaces as well as with indoor group physical activities. As always, the goal of the province’s COVID-19 response is to maintain capacity within the health care system, protecting those who are most vulnerable and to keep as much as possible going on in our communities. Because of the significant increase in diagnosis and hospitalizations the province has taken further action to step back from the restart activities in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health regions and instituted a new public health order in effect from Saturday November 7 to Monday November 23.
The Public Health Order require individuals, places of work and businesses within the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser regions to significantly reduce social interactions and travel. The specifics of the order can be found here. The terms of the order include the following:
- Socialize only with those in your immediate household.
- People who live alone can socialize with one or two people at home, outside or at a restaurant. These one or two people become your immediate household.
- No social gatherings of any size with anyone other than your immediate household, including outdoors and in restaurants.
- Funerals and weddings may proceed with your immediate household only.
- All indoor group physical activities must be suspended immediately and can only resume when they have updated their COVID-19 safety plan and received plan approval.
- All businesses and worksites must conduct daily in person screening of all onsite workers, ensure workers and customers maintain appropriate physical distance and wear masks when appropriate.
- Party buses and group limousines must stop operations immediately.
- Travel into and out of the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley should be limited to essential travel only.
For workplaces, now is a great time to review your Covid Safety Plans. Workplace Covid Safety Plans have been required by WorkSafe BC since May. A Covid Safety Plan outlines the policies and procedures put in place to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 at work. The six steps involved in your workplace Covid Safety Plan include:
Step 1 – Assess the risks at your workplace.
Step 2 – Implement protocols to reduce the risks.
Step 3 – Develop policies.
Step 4 – Develop communications plans and training.
Step 5 – Monitor your workplace and update your plans as necessary.
Step 6 – Assess and address risks from resuming operations.
WorkSafe BC has an excellent planning template to help you develop and maintain your Covid Safety Plan as well as an app that can be used on any mobile device. You can access these resources here.
The combination of the Public Health Order and WorkSafe requirements require workplaces to review their Covid Safety Plan to ensure that in the face of the surge of cases their safety plan remains appropriate and to revise it as appropriate. One change that must be implemented due to the Public Health Order is to ensure that active daily in person screening of all onsite workers is conducted, using the Covid symptom checklist. Dr. Henry has also recommended that employers encourage remote work where possible.
It will take cooperation of all British Columbians to put the pandemic behind us. Workplaces have an important role to play in the fight against COVID-19. It falls on all of us to follow the guidance being given by Dr. Henry and to remain kind, calm and safe.