Canada Post says it has begun testing an entire shift of employees for COVID-19 at a Mississauga, Ont., facility after 121 workers there tested positive in the last three weeks.
In a statement on Wednesday, Canada Post said Peel Region health authorities ordered the testing, which began on Tuesday at the Crown corporation’s Gateway East facility, located at 4567 Dixie Rd.
It was not immediately clear how many employees comprise a shift or whether all 121 who tested positive were on the shift now undergoing testing.
Any employees who test positive will be told to go into isolation for 14 days. Canada Post says it is offering voluntary testing to employees who work on other shifts and in other areas of the facility.
Any employee who is required to be tested but refuses will also have to go into isolation for 14 days, Canada Post said in a letter to staff on Friday.
Quarantined workers could be fined up to $5,000 a day if they refuse to stay apart from others in their houses, leave home, or have visitors other than those allowed by Peel Public Health, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) said in a letter on Monday.
A Canada Post employee whose identity is being withheld by CBC Toronto says the outbreak is causing delays in mail delivery. The employee, who doesn’t work at Gateway East, said there are semi-trailers full of mail waiting to be sorted in its huge yard.
“Anything that’s important goes through Gateway. They do letters there. They do all the parcels for most of the country. It’s really the hub,” the worker said.
Canada Post spokesperson Phil Legault said the corporation has been told by Peel Public Health that it can continue its operations at Gateway East despite the outbreak.
“The Gateway facility is central to our entire national delivery and processing network, and the COVID safety measures we have implemented nationwide are having an impact on our delivery service,” he said.
“These measures, combined with record-breaking volumes, will continue to have an impact on service.”
CUPW national president Jan Simpson says the testing is a positive step by the corporation to keep workers safe.
“The priority of the union continues to be the health and safety of our members, and the testing by Peel Public Health at the Gateway facility is another tool to help ensure worker safety,” she said Wednesday in an email to CBC.
Simpson said postal employees are essential workers.
“From the beginning of the pandemic, postal workers have been on the front line, delivering goods, and helping people stay home and flatten the curve,” she said.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel Region’s medical officer of health, said on Wednesday that Peel Public Health is aware that manufacturing plants, distribution centres and warehouses are at high risk for workplace outbreaks.
“Certainly this really drives home the message that we have been saying all along. For our essential workers in our community, ultimately, there is no lockdown or shutdown,” Loh told reporters at a briefing in Mississauga.
“They are ultimately still out there making sure that there are packages delivered and food on the table. It really drives home the importance of ensuring that they are protected amidst this pandemic.”
Loh said Peel Public Health inspects all workplaces where COVID-19 outbreaks have been reported.
According to Legault, Canada Post has had 1,034 employees test positive across the country. More than three quarters have been cleared and have returned to work, he said.
“Since the start of the pandemic, Canada Post has followed the guidance of public health authorities to implement rigorous measures to keep its employees safe,” Legault said.