Staff at Mississauga COVID-19 test centres and vaccination clinics harassed, assaulted
Published January 20, 2022 at 3:40 pm
Workers at COVID-19 test centres in Mississauga have been harassed and physically assaulted by some people who mistakenly believe they need a negative test result in order to return to their jobs.
Dr. Lawrence Loh, the Region of Peel’s medical officer of health, condemned the actions of the relative few who have taken their anger and frustration out on test centre workers just trying to do their jobs.
Speaking at Mississauga’s weekly COVID-19 update earlier today, Loh said similar incidents of violence, harassment and verbal abuse have also been reported at vaccination centres in Mississauga and Brampton.
The incidents at the COVID-19 test centres have been prompted by a mistaken belief, Loh said, that workers who’ve been in isolation due to virus symptoms need to show their employers a negative test result before they can return to work.
Loh attempted to set the record straight today on the matter.
He said unless you work in high-risk settings such as hospitals or long-term care facilities, or meet any of the other criteria specified in provincial testing criteria, you do not need a test to either confirm a diagnosis of COVID-19 if you’re showing symptoms or show you do not have the virus.
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“If you or anyone else is sick, stay home, review your symptoms against the provincial screening tool and follow the directions on how long and who should self-isolate,” said Loh. “Once your self-isolation period has passed and provided your symptoms are resolving, you do not need a negative test to confirm the end of your isolation.
“In saying so, I understand that certain employers in our community are requiring proof of negative tests following illness in order for employees to return to work,” Loh continued. “This practice should stop immediately. To be clear, if your symptoms have resolved and your isolation period is over, no test is needed to return to work. I urge employers to revise their testing policies to eliminate a focus on negative tests for return to work. If anything, you should be looking at vaccination policies rather than exclusions on the basis of test results.”
Loh said residents who have recovered and are seeking tests for purposes of returning to work settings other than those that work in our highest-risk settings as defined by provincial criteria will be turned away.
“If you are turned away from a testing centre because you do not meet the criteria, I ask that you do not abuse or harass the testing teams who are enforcing the criteria at these centres,” Loh said. “I have been very disturbed by reports of physical abuse of staff at assessment centres being run by our provincial and community partners who deliver testing, along with similar reports of abuse and frustration at our vaccination clinics.
“Let me be clear,” Loh concluded “Anger and frustration is never an excuse for assault. You will be asked to leave if your behaviour is out of line. Please be kind and show respect to our staff who are working hard to protect you and our community.”
Loh also noted today that while Omicron, the latest and most transmissible variant, seems to be stabilizing in Peel, now is not the time to be complacent.
“There are trends this week that are suggestive that Omicron transmission is starting to plateau in Peel. but I want to be clear that it is plateauing at a high level of transmission in our community,” he said, adding the best protection still is to get vaccinated. “Two doses are helpful and a booster is even better, especially if you’re over the age of 50.”
Loh added that community vaccination clinics across the city and region continue to accept walk-ins for their shots.
He also urged parents of children aged 5 to 11 to get their youngsters vaccinated. Loh reminded them it is completely safe.
The medical officer of health said about 42 per cent of Peel children aged 5 to 11 are now vaccinated. That’s up from just under 40 per cent last week, but still ranks among the lowest of GTA municipalities.
Loh said, overall, the focus has shifted in the fight against the virus.
“Our focus is now less on preventing infections alone to preventing severe outcomes such as hospitalizations and ICU stays, which is also why vaccination remains crucial,” he said.
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