Why no workplace closures during B.C.'s 4th wave? Ministry says they haven't been necessary
B.C.'s Ministry of Health says officials still have the authority to order businesses to close when there is evidence of COVID-19 transmission between employees, they just haven't had a reason to issue such an order in more than three months.
That's how long it's been since the last time a workplace in the Lower Mainland was ordered to close due to COVID-19 transmission.
Even as cases have risen during the fourth wave of the pandemic in the province, the number of business closures has stayed at zero, something the ministry attributes to high rates of vaccination reducing the risk of workplace outbreaks.
In April of this year, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced what she called an "expedited workplace closure order" aimed at slowing the transmission of COVID-19 between working-age people.
Businesses where three or more employees tested positive for the coronavirus and officials found evidence of at-work transmission would be ordered to close for at least 10 days, with officers from WorkSafeBC empowered to deliver the closure orders on behalf of regional health authorities.
Dozens of businesses in the Lower Mainland were ordered to close in the weeks following Henry's announcement, but by early June the number had dwindled to zero as COVID-19 transmission fell across the province.
Asked why there haven't been any closures since June, and whether the criteria for ordering a business to close due to COVID-19 transmission had changed, the ministry emailed a statement to CTV News Vancouver that reads, in part:
"Orders related to workplace safety have been archived. Once these orders are archived, they are rescinded and are no longer applicable. However, public health officials maintain the ability and the authority under the Public Health Act to close a business that is posing a health hazard to the workers or the public."
"The vast majority of eligible people are now vaccinated, which has significantly modified the risk of outbreaks in workplace settings," the ministry continued.
PUBLIC EXPOSURES ALSO UNCOMMON
In a similar vein, public exposure notifications on health authority websites have been few and far between as B.C.'s fourth wave has progressed.
After a flurry of exposure notices in July and early August, neither Fraser Health nor Vancouver Coastal Health has issued such a warning in weeks.
Interior Health had also gone more than a month without such a notice, before announcing Thursday that a grad party in Armstrong on Sept. 6 had led to "a small number" of cases among students from Pleasant Valley Secondary School and warning attendees to self-monitor for symptoms.
Regarding exposure notices, the ministry says there has been no change to the criteria for issuing one.
"We are seeing more exposure events in private settings," the ministry said. "Public exposures are listed when there's been exposures and people can't be identified. Contact tracing allows public health to identify the majority of close contacts and potential cases."