May 19, 2024
Ontario is sending workers troubling mixed messages about coronavirus risks
As the virus fight drags on, it would be wise to do some real risk assessment on what work is dangerous and what is not.
As the virus fight drags on, it would be wise to do some real risk assessment on what work is dangerous and what is not.

As it tries to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Ontario government has to sell two contradictory messages simultaneously.

The first is the one with which we are most familiar: The public is at great risk from the virus, so stay home; venture out only when absolutely necessary; and stay at least six feet away from other people. That message is supported by regular updates on more COVID-19 cases, more deaths and more restrictions on everyday life. If all of this makes you scared, then that’s a mission accomplished for the government, which wants to stop the spread of the virus at all costs.

Unless you work in one of the many jobs government has deemed essential, that is. If you are an essential worker, the message for you is completely different. You are expected to show up for work every day, and, if you don’t, in many cases your employer won’t pay you. If you feel your job is too risky, you could quit, but you won’t be eligible for the new Canadian Emergency Response Benefit that is giving millions of other Canadians $2,000 a month. As compensation, the rest of us routinely refer to people working in essential jobs as heroes.

The government’s two-pronged strategy is necessary for obvious reasons. Both the food supply chain and health care are critical. We can’t afford to have people deemed essential not coming to work.

And yet, the government’s messages are difficult to square. On the one hand, we are told that the danger of a person merely passing by another is so extreme that people wandering on the grass in public parks must be disciplined with provincially set fines that start at $880. On the other, we expect people working in grocery stores to spend hours in an environment where hundreds of people pass them every day at distances that can’t be entirely controlled.

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See Also:

(1) Ontario Starts Planning for Economic Recovery (Jack: This should be impressive.)

(2) Head of Public Health Ontario temporarily stepping down due to medical issues

(3) Toronto Caribbean Carnival has been cancelled

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