Toronto sets January date for city workers to return to the office, amid rising COVID-19 cases, Omicron uncertainty and transit struggles
By Nicole Lee
20 April 2020
Toronto is set to return to the office on June 8, 2020, just a month into the new phase of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with the city’s latest modelling suggesting that the first wave of new cases could grow to 40,000 by the end of the summer. As of January 15, more than 50,000 people had signed up and begun to self-isolate.
According to city staff, the decision to return to the office has been made after the release of modeling that shows the return of office employees to the city centre would allow the spread of the virus to level off within the office space.
This is despite the fact that a surge in COVID-19 cases in hospitals has resulted in the closure of three hospitals and the hospitalization of hundreds of COVID-19 patients, including the first fatality. The model suggests the virus could still be transmitted in the office space, but the risk of a major outbreak in buildings is very low, due to the closeness of the buildings.
The modeling was released in the media on January 21, after a month of intense media coverage focused on the risk of a major outbreak. A week earlier, John Campbell, executive director of the Ontario Works and the city’s new chief medical officer, Dr. Ashley Jax, warned that “without further intervention,” the COVID-19 outbreak might peak by mid-June.
On May 6, the provincial government announced that a new phase of the pandemic would begin with a gradual return to work through the summer months, rather than the first wave of increased cases that was expected to peak in mid-July.
As in the past, the modelling shows that the office building is only one of the most likely areas where the virus could be transmitted via contact with contaminated surfaces. The modelling in January suggested the office was a low risk zone due to the large distance from the patient’s room and the relatively small number of people in the building.
However, a recent analysis