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Workers at 2 Ontario Toyota plants allowed to return to work despite COVID-19 exposure (update)

Southwestern Public Health is investigating a COVID-19 exposure at two of Toyota Canada’s plants, one in Cambridge and the other in Woodstock.
Toyota
Mark Pare/KitchenerToday. Just outside the Cambridge Toyota plant.

Southwestern Public Health is investigating a COVID-19 exposure at two of Toyota Canada’s plants, one in Cambridge and the other in Woodstock.

An employee at one of the plants tells CityNews upwards of 150 workers may have been exposed to the virus. They say that on Thursday afternoon, employees received a letter from the public health unit stating that they may have been exposed on March 25 and that they should self-isolate until April 8.

Despite being identified as a “high-risk close contact”, employees were told they could return to work as long as they observe physical distancing measures.

“During your self-isolation you may continue to go to work but you must go directly to work and home again,” reads the letter. “While you are at work it is important you maintain your isolation meaning you avoid any close contact (within 6 feet) of any co-workers until your isolation period is over.”

In a statement to CityNews, Dr. Joyce Lock, the Medical Officer of Health for the Southwestern Public Health Unit, says the letter employees received provides specific directions on what is referred to as ‘work self-isolation,’ which is an option in some situations where it can be done safely.

“Our team is working very closely with Toyota to ensure any of the identified contacts attending work are doing so safely using appropriate (Infection Prevention and Control) measures.”

The Health Unit has not confirmed the number of exposed or infected employees citing privacy issues.

Region of Waterloo Public Health released a statement to 570 NEWS Saturday afternoon on the matter.

They confirm they are working with Southwestern Public Health, the Ministry of Health, Public Health Ontario and Toyota to ensure infection and control measures are in place.

The public health unit also expanded on the 'work self-isolation' term used in letters to impacted Toyota workers.

"Work self-isolation, an option in case and contact management in particular situations, means maintaining self-isolation measures outside of work and following a strict set of protocols at work that includes physical distancing, use of personal protective equipment, heightened screening, testing, minimizing risk related to travel to and from work, and additional infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures for a period of 14 days after a potential exposure," the statement read.

"Our team is working closely with Toyota to ensure all identified contacts attending work are doing so safely using appropriate IPAC measures. Additional health and safety oversight is being provided by the Health and Safety team onsite.”

Toyota released a statement Saturday, confirming a third-party worker conducting rapid COVID-19 testing at the Cambridge North and Woodstock plants tested positive for the virus.

The worker was last on site March 26, and the automaker said they're working with public health to test anyone who "even briefly interacted" with the person.

They say 80 per cent of tests have come back, and all have returned negative.

With files from CityNews. 

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