Ontario (Again) Updates Its COVID-19 Self-Assessment
Date: August 12, 2020
NOTE: This is an updated version of an article originally published on May 20, 2020 and most recently updated on August 7, 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 and undergo testing at a COVID-19 assessment centre in a number of situations. 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.
Recent Updates to the Tool
The latest update to the Tool refers users to information about the COVID Alert mobile app. This recently launched application is free for smartphones and uses the built-in Bluetooth function on users’ phones to notify users about possible exposure to COVID-19 and provide advice on next steps.
Previous Updates to the Tool
The Tool asks for the user’s age and first three characters of the user’s postal code to collect information about where the virus is spreading. Users can find out which public health unit they reside or work in on the Tool’s home page.
The Tool provides tips for Ontarians on how to participate in safe social gatherings. The new guidelines provide different recommendations based on region. Users can learn more about the province’s regional approach at the Reopening Ontario page.
In addition to asking users to identify whether they have any of the 17 listed symptoms and about their membership in an at-risk group, the updated Tool provides instruction on how Ontarians can participate in safe social gatherings.
It also has a “save self-assessment result” feature.
In the update, the province makes public health recommendations for those who are part of an “at-risk group” but do not meet any of the criteria for immediate testing. This group is encouraged to “talk with a doctor about self-isolation, reduce time outside the home, wear a face covering or mask, and keep a distance from others as much as possible”.
At the end of the assessment, the Tool now includes “tips to stay healthy” that includes recommendations on work and workspaces, a note on “when to get tested”, and for those who are “at risk”, the option to receive a follow up call.
What the Tool Does
The Tool directs Ontarians to immediately go to a COVID-19 assessment centre to get tested, and otherwise self-isolate, if they meet any of the following criteria:
- have one or more of 17 listed COVID-19 symptoms
- 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 and has symptoms of COVID-19,
Ontarians who have returned from travel outside of Canada must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Those with symptoms continue to be advised that they should notify people they were in close physical contact with in the two days before their symptoms started to self-isolate and pay close attention to their health.
The Tool redefined “close physical contact” as being less than 2 metres away in the same room, workspace, or area living in the same home.
The list of “at-risk groups” has also been modified, and the Tool recommends that the following persons who meet one of the following conditions self-isolate:
- getting treatment that compromises (weakens) the immune system
- having a condition that compromise (weakens) the immune system
- having a chronic (long-lasting) health condition, and
- regularly going to a hospital or health care setting for treatment.
Persons 70 years and older are also advised to self-isolate.
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. The updated tool includes additional sector-specific guidelines and information on keeping workplaces safe. 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.
With thanks to Quinn Brown, 2020 Hicks Morley Summer Student.
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. ©