Today the Ontario government took a giant step in acknowledging that COVID-19 is an airborne virus by announcing they are investing in an “airborne COVID-19 detector”, says CUPE.

CEM Specialties Inc. (CEMSI)  will get $2 million through the Ontario Together Fund to help commercialize and accelerate production of an airborne COVID-19 detector. When the presence of the virus is detected the device provides an alert, the government media release says. Further the media release states that the COVID-19 detection device “continuously monitors the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the air.”

“Now they must apply this recognition of airborne transmission to policy – especially in high-risk environments like long-term care homes and hospitals. The cruel irony here is that the Ontario government denies, to its health care workforce and to the general public that COVID-19 is transmitted through the air, outside of certain aerosolizing procedures, but invest in technology to sense COVID-19 transmission through air. It’s time the province changed its transmission guidelines,” says Michael Hurley, president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE).

In November the federal government changed its advice on COVID-19 and acknowledged airborne transmission. Ontario has refused to follow suit.

In Ontario 17,250 health care workers have caught COVID-19 and 20 have died. “We and many others believe this happened in large part because the province refuses to provide safety equipment needed to protect staff against an airborne virus,” says Hurley. “The death toll for the people that they care for is shameful. It is time for the province to identify, as the federal government has done, that this virus is airborne and for us to move to take the necessary steps to defend against it.”

There is a large body of evidence that the virus is transmitted through the air. 300 physicians and epidemiologists wrote the provincial and federal governments asking them to declare airborne transmission.

“The deaths of 3,600 long-term care residents are in part attributable to the stubborn refusal of the Ontario government to separate those who are ill with COVID-19 from those who are not,” says Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “In congregate living settings with poor ventilation and threadbare staffing, an airborne virus spreads rapidly. We see this play out every day in facilities across Ontario and this must change.”