Truck drivers should be ready to handle the unique risks they are facing in dealing with Covid-19, public health officials warned Thursday.
They were speaking at a webinar hosted by the Region of Peel in partnership with the Ontario Trucking Association (OTA).
The region has reported 7,161 cases of Covid-19, including 321 deaths. Of those infected, between 120 and 150 are truck drivers, said Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health.
The trucking industry is the economic engine of Peel, comprising Brampton, Mississauga and the Town of Caledon.
Every day, 68,000 vehicles transport goods over Peel roads. And every day, goods worth $1.8 billion move to, through, and from Peel, according to the region.
In addition, four in every nine jobs depend upon the movements of goods.
Dr. Hetal Patel, a family physician who has been supporting Peel’s response to the pandemic, addressed the main risks truckers are facing.
- In-person interactions such as pick-up, drop-off, border crossing and fueling;
- Travel to the U.S., where Covid-19 is out of control;
- Team-riding or ride-alongs; and
- Many high-touch areas within the trucking environment.
The region entered Stage 3 of reopening July 31, and Patel and Loh stressed that it is crucial that truck drivers and other Peel residents follow the Core Four guidelines.
They are keeping a distance of two meters, frequent handwashing, wearing a mask and getting tested, Patel said.
“Some example specific for the trucking industry include considering contactless options for pick-up and drop-off procedures by using technology to communicate with shippers and receivers,” she said.
Patel reiterated that Peel public health is committed to helping businesses reduce the risk of Covid-19 in their workplaces.
Maintaining clear supportive communication with employees is crucial for preventing and controlling outbreaks, she said.
“And finally, it is worthwhile to develop a contingency plan on how business operations may be able to continue with limited staff in the event of a workplace outbreak,” Patel said.
Loh, meanwhile, warned that the potential for a second wave of Covid-19 in fall or winter is real.
“There hasn’t been a pandemic in human history that hasn’t had second wave,” he said.
“There is a good likelihood that we might see a second wave in fall or winter because this is a disease that spreads typically through crowded indoor spaces.”
Loh said fatigue could set in after summer, with more interactions in the community leading to another outbreak.
“We are anticipating one, we are preparing our capacity to respond,” he said.
Loh, however, added that it is not likely that cities would return to broad shutdowns in the course of a second wave.
“As long as we keep taking the precautions that we have been taking, and also continue to remain prepared, I think we will be in a good place to mitigate it without large-scale shutdowns like we saw in the spring”