U.K. variant detected in three more cases at North York meat plant as Toronto releases workplace outbreak data

TORONTO — A COVID-19 variant that originated in the United Kingdom has been detected in three more cases at a meat production facility in North York as Toronto Public Health disclosed Thursday all workplace outbreaks in the city.

Declared on Jan. 27, the outbreak at Belmont Meats has resulted in 94 cases and of those, 12 have been linked to be the more transmissible B.1.1.7 variant. The facility remains closed after it voluntarily shut down on Jan. 28.

TPH reported on Feb. 8 that 95 employees tested positive for COVID-19. However, Dr. Vinita Dubey, the city’s associate medical officer of health, said Thursday that one case was removed from the total “because upon further investigation and consultation with the laboratory, the individual turned out to be negative for COVID-19.”

The outbreak at Belmont Meats is one of 16 workplaces with active COVID-19 outbreaks in the city. TPH said on Thursday that it will now be reporting all workplaces with outbreaks on a weekly basis following the request from the Board of Health last month. Previously, TPH only released locations with “significant” outbreaks.

Toronto Mayor John Tory said posting workplace outbreak data “makes sense.”

“This information will provide everyone with a better picture of COVID-19 in our community, and it will encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves,” Tory said in a statement.

“I continue to urge all employers to make sure they take all steps possible and follow all public health measures to help protect their employees.”

Five other businesses in the city have 20 or more cases of COVID-19, including Alumicor Limited, Dimflmeier Bakery, Johnvince Foods, Maple Leaf Foods, and Sky Window Technologies.

According to TPH, an outbreak is declared when two or more confirmed cases of COVID-19 have an epidemiological link in a workplace.

“When TPH is informed of one or more COVID-19 cases in a workplace, TPH begins an investigation. This includes collecting information from individuals who have tested positive, identifying close contacts including close contacts in the workplace to ensure they are home and self-isolating, and providing recommendations to employers on ways to prevent further opportunities for virus spread,” TPH said.

An outbreak has also been reported at the Ontario Courts of Justice, Yaya Foods, CIBC Business Contact Centre, Deciem, Anco Contracting Inc., Leland Industries Inc., March of Dimes, Molson Coors Brewing Company, Nagels North America, and Upper Crust.

“When it comes to workplace outbreaks, by informing the public, we can help to inform behaviour,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, the chair of the Toronto Board of Health.

“And, by drawing attention to workplace outbreaks, we can help to ensure employers and governments are doing everything possible to keep workers and workplaces safe. In that sense, our intention here is to not only to inform but to spur action to protect essential and frontline workers.”

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