The region’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner has reissued his letter of instruction on workplace protection measures for businesses and organizations in the District of Muskoka and Simcoe County.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) put out the updated letter Wednesday. “The content is mostly the same,” Gardner said during his weekly briefing about the update to his original March 11th letter. “Most of the content in my letter of instruction is actually included in the regulations of the Reopening Ontario Act. It’s meant to support the province’s direction overall.”

Gardner said the letter was reissued in light of rising COVID-19 transmission rates as the province moves through the fourth, Delta-driven, wave of the virus.

In the letter, Gardner strongly recommends that all local employers implement a COVID-19 workplace vaccination policy.

Along with public health measures from the original March letter, starting Monday, the letter now includes the following new provisions and amendments:

  • Instructions apply to all individuals and do not differentiate between fully vaccinated, partially or non-vaccinated persons.  
  • Appointing a compliance officer for the implementation of a COVID-19 safety plan is no longer required.
  • Recommends the implementation of remote operations by providing goods by mail or other delivery forms, making goods available for pick-up and providing services online, by telephone or other remote means.  
  • Requires face coverings and physical distancing; however, the requirement of plexiglass dividers is not referenced.
  • Certain businesses must collect and keep contact information for 30 days of all staff and patrons. 
  • Actively screen all employees.
  • Provide eye protection to individuals driving with others in a vehicle associated with work if the travel time is 15 minutes or longer.
  • Provide greater clarity on HVAC requirements with the overall goal of HVAC system and unit optimization.

Health officials say our region has seen more COVID-19 infections in the past weeks going from about three new cases a day at the beginning of July to 20 cases per day as of this week. Based on provincial numbers reported from two weeks ago, 69-percent of new cases are in unvaccinated or partially vaccinated people with unvaccinated individuals in Simcoe Muskoka being 13 times more likely than vaccinated individuals to get the virus. 

“It’s important that employers do all they can to protect the work environment,” Gardner said. “Their employees, volunteers, contractors and students and for that matter protect their patrons from the transmission of COVID-19.”

COVID-19 vaccinations are still available to eligible residents through participating pharmacies, primary care providers, and pop-up clinics. The health unit’s website has the details on where and when pop-up clinics will be held, and other ways to get vaccinated.