They made doors, gum and jerry cans. Ontario’s ‘essential’ workers in manufacturing accounted for more workplace COVID deaths than any other sector — even health care.
Health care is considered an essential service, as are most other workplaces in the United States. But when COVID-19 hit Ontario in March, Ontario’s essential workers in manufacturing — the people who make things like buttons and door handles and medical equipment — accounted for as much as 25 per cent of workplace COVID deaths, according to a new Health Ministry report.
The numbers are staggering: of 8,742 active cases in Ontario as of April 1, 25 died from COVID-19 in the manufacturing sector, according to data from Statistics Canada.
Health Canada is tracking a total of 2,000 deaths due to COVID-19 related to the workplace, according to a recent spokesperson.
The numbers are particularly high in the automotive industry, where the report found that 523 Ontario workers died from the COVID-19 virus.
At the automotive industry’s manufacturing hub in Oshawa, the local “essential” workforce accounted for 20 per cent of workplace COVID deaths.
So a manufacturer here, a local distributor there, a dealer or manager down in the southern part of the province, could have killed someone.
It’s an obvious result of policies around social distancing: while provincial and federal governments continue to offer extra support for essential workers — from a $5.2-million package to protect nurses to a $7-million, four-week “shelter-in-place” emergency relief programme for seniors — workers have been losing vital protection time, a source tells CTVNews.ca.
In fact, a recent Globe and Mail story pointed out that Ontario’s COVID-19 death figures are the “highest in the country,” while an Ontario Medical Association spokesperson says that while those with health conditions are considered to be “essential” workers, that’s too vague to protect them and their families, who are vulnerable.
In the most extreme scenario, an essential worker at a family-run farm in the country’s western corner was