Corp Comm Connects

Going 'where the fires are burning': new mobile teams to tackle COVID-19 in York Region workplaces

Vaughan plant employees, including residents from Toronto and Peel, to get early access to vaccines
April 9, 2021

York Region is going “right to where the fires are burning” to fight the spread of COVID-19 variants, says Dr. Karim Kurji, the region’s medical officer of health.

That means “shifting to the offensive”, focusing on community hot spots where transmission is highest: younger populations and workplaces where outbreaks have been common, Kurji said at the region’s council meeting today.

The number of COVID variants has been rising -- not exponentially, Kurji said, but enough of a concern to warrant attention.

Most recently, Kurji said, he was heartened to learn variants have plateaued and have even started to decline.

“These are early days and we don’t want to read too much into that, but this is a good piece of news because the variants tend to be more aggressive in terms of transmissibility, and are associated with more hospitalizations and greater mortality, and also seem to affect young people more.”

Kurji said his health unit is going to direct efforts to further stop the spread.

The Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Studies has narrowed down 13 postal codes in York Region that are highest risk and the region narrowed that down even further to five hot spots where residents aged 45 to 59 can be immunized now -- a way to “get the best bang for the buck” given a shortage of available vaccines, Kurji said.

The remaining eight postal codes are waiting for further vaccine supply.

In addition, the region has mobile teams that will be going into specific plants to immunize all adults working there, whether they live in the region or not.

“These plants have been selected on the basis of very proper epidemiological parameters, places that have had repeat outbreaks.”

About 44 per cent of York Region outbreaks took place in manufacturing -- 34 per cent in product-materials manufacturing and 10 per cent in food manufacturing -- according to a report presented to York Region council.

Thirty-four per cent of all York Region workplace outbreaks were located in Vaughan, with a majority in the initial four Vaughan hot spots.

Much of that spread may be attributed to essential workers who could not transition to working from home.

Data from new research by the Toronto Region Board of Trade’s Economic Blueprint Institute shows about 58 per cent of about 170,000 jobs in Vaughan’s business districts have no capacity for remote work.

To reach the high-transmission locations, Kurji said mobile teams are now visiting at least 12 plants associated with metalworking, roofing contractors, building materials, window and door manufacturers.

An additional 24 have been identified for the next round of visits, he said.

Two thirds of these workers do not live in York Region; the overwhelming majority come from Toronto and Peel, he said.

“But if we are to put out these fires, we have to immunize everyone there.”