As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across Toronto, York has recorded another infection at its main campus.
Loblaw Companies Limited reported on November 1 that a staff member had tested positive for the virus at the Shoppers Drug Mart in York Lanes, at the Keele campus. The individual in question last worked at the branch on October 28.
Yanni Dagonas, deputy spokesperson for York, assures students that the administration is cooperating with third-parties, including Shoppers Drug Mart, to contain the spread of the virus on university grounds. He cites “robust precautionary measures” that aim to prevent any identified cases from spreading.
“York Lanes, for example, has engaged an independent firm to perform audits of the tenants, including Shoppers Drug Mart, in order to ensure that all are following pandemic related requirements and guidelines and are operating their facilities to a high safety standard in the context of the pandemic,” says Dagonas.
As of November 16, the university reports one active case on campus.
York provides updates and guidelines on COVID-19 through their Better Together website. Students, faculty, and university staff are included in the university’s official case count. However, Dagonas emphasized that the university is not responsible for any cases recorded by companies that operate on campus.
“Toronto Public Health is clear that a COVID-19 diagnosis constitutes personal health information, as such, companies operating on our campus are not required to report employee disclosures to the university,” he says. “We do not track these cases as part of our community count. Toronto Public Health would provide direction to York in the case there was community risk.”
These new cases are not out of the ordinary; on November 16 Toronto reached a single-day high of 538 new COVID-19 infections.
“The case counts in Toronto are alarming,” said Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen de Villa during a press conference on November 16.
“It’s concerning that while we see evidence of infection prevention and control efforts by local businesses, we still see examples of COVID-19 spread…”
While it is uncertain how staff members at the York Lanes Shoppers Drug Mart contracted the virus, customers can be assured that precautions are in place to prevent transmission.
Shoppers Drug Mart stores across Canada have implemented a variety of precautions, including plexiglass droplet screens, limited foot traffic, and regular sanitation.
According to de Villa, the main cause for concern in business environments like these is for fellow staff who may be at risk:
“It’s concerning that while we see evidence of infection prevention and control efforts by local businesses, we still see examples of COVID-19 spread particularly when staff are interacting with each other – such as in the lunchroom, or if they carpool together to work,” she stated.
Toronto Public Health officials continue to stress the importance of protocols like social distancing, mask-wearing, and regular sanitizing, even when surrounded by familiar faces.
“It’s natural for people to want to be relaxed and close in situations of trust, familiarity or high emotion. But these are the circumstances that drive risk and infection,” stated de Villa.
“This is why it’s so important that you think about how to limit contact with others, even when the situation is a place you want to be and with people you want to be with. The virus doesn’t make that distinction. It will infect wherever the circumstances are right.”
York Lanes Shoppers Drug Mart was not available for comment at the time of publication.