Ontario Updates Its COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool – Updated
Date: May 27, 2020
NOTE: This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 20, 2020
Ontario employers who are planning for an eventual return to work have been keeping a close eye on the province’s COVID-19 Self-Assessment Tool (Tool). The Tool directs Ontarians to self-isolate in certain circumstances. This is important because it relates to employers’ Occupational Health and Safety Act duties and their duty to provide statutorily-protected leaves under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.
The province has recently made several updates to the Tool, the last of which was on May 26, 2020. Significantly, the Tool now directs Ontarians to go to a COVID-19 assessment centre to get tested if they have any of 17 listed COVID-19 symptoms or have been in close physical contact with someone who (i) has symptoms or (ii) recently travelled. These Ontarians are advised to self-isolate except to go to an assessment centre, or for a medical emergency. Prior to the updates, close physical contacts and Ontarians with less serious symptoms had been advised that they must self-isolate for 14 days and that they did not need to contact a doctor or get tested.
The province has added “people regularly going into a hospital or health care setting for treatment” to the list of “at-risk groups” who are recommended to self-isolate. The “at-risk” age has also been changed from 65 to 70 years old.
The changes described
The Tool directs self-isolation for Ontarians who meet any of the following criteria:
- have one or more of 17 listed COVID-19 symptoms
- have travelled outside of Canada in the last 14 days
- in the last 14 days, have been in “close physical contact” with:
- a person who tested positive for COVID-19,
- a person who is sick with a new cough, fever, or difficulty breathing,
- a person who returned from outside of Canada in the last 2 weeks.
Ontarians with symptoms continue to be advised that they should tell people to self-isolate who they were in close physical contact with in the two days before their symptoms started. The list of symptoms has been updated, and now includes conjunctivitis (pink eye) and muscle aches.
The Tool now defines “close physical contact” as:
- being less than 2 metres away in the same room, workspace, or area for over 15 minutes
- living in the same home
The Tool continues to recommend that individuals who are “at-risk” self-isolate. The list of at-risk groups is now:
- 70 years old or older
- getting treatment or have a condition that compromises their immune system
- have a chronic health condition
- regularly going to a hospital or health care setting for a treatment
What this means for Ontario employers
An assessment tool that once provided definitive guidance on self-isolation for symptomatic individuals and close physical contacts has shifted its focus to directing those groups to get tested for COVID-19. Whereas past versions of the Tool could be used by employers to develop clear guidelines around self-isolation for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, the latest update suggests that all employees with COVID-19 symptoms should seek a COVID-19 test, at which point they will receive results and further direction from public health authorities. Employers should encourage employees to follow this advice as testing may allow employees who test negative for COVID-19 to return to work without needing to take a leave of absence to self-isolate.
The updated Tool continues to be relevant and should be carefully considered by all Ontario employers in establishing rules on who can enter their workplaces.
Please refer directly to the Tool for further updates, as it changes frequently.
The article in this client update provides general information and should not be relied on as legal advice or opinion. This publication is copyrighted by Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP and may not be photocopied or reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without the express permission of Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. ©