On behalf of Black & McDonald’s COVID-19 Crisis Management Team (CCMT), I am providing this update for all employees of Black & McDonald, its subsidiaries and joint ventures as of Monday, March 23, 2020.

We learned late last night that we have our first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection within our employee group.  An employee of our Toronto-based Field Service Division (FSD), which is based out of our Railside Road office, tested positive for the virus.  I was in touch with him directly and am pleased to report that he believes he is past the worst phase of illness and is recovering well.  We have followed all the recommended protocols to safely isolate other people with whom he had contact, temporarily ceased operation of FSD and closed the office at our Railside facility.   We also are communicating directly with customers.

This setback nor the ongoing uncertainty and disruption of the pandemic has weakened the B&M resolve and we continue to fight hard to protect people and the business and to continue serving customers as safely and effectively as possible.   To date, all of our offices have responded rapidly and are proceeding in a measured and cautious manner.

We are also actively scaling back operations in many places out of both prudence related to hazard protection and safe-work conditions and necessity due to government-mandated restrictions and customer directives.

This afternoon, the provinces of Ontario and Quebec announced a temporary shutdown all “non-essential businesses” effective Tuesday March 24 at midnight.    There is an absence of clarity in both of these announcements as it relates to the services of B&M but it is safe to assume all of our operations within these provinces will be severely impacted.

We have been preparing for the possibility of widespread lockdown and will be responding quickly with care, compliance and measured actions.

Clearly, our operating conditions are changing by the hour and we are endeavoring to keep everyone informed as quickly as possible.   We will be in touch when we have the important facts.

Our dedicated website www.blackandmcdonaldhealth.com is now available for your access to past and ongoing COVID-19 updates and information.   Attached please find updates on recent initiatives and latest FAQ’s.

Please remind yourself and others of the absolute necessity of frequent handwashing and social distancing.   Stay clean, stay apart and we will all stay safe.

Updates on recent initiatives:

To this end, here are some quick updates on recent initiatives:

  • We have instituted many processes and control measures for supporting and monitoring the health of our employees and isolating potentially ill people. This includes:
    • Daily tracking of Fit for Duty Questionnaire results
    • Employee tracking for all those in home isolation of some kind.
    • Rolling out a Litmos-based E-Learning course “Coronavirus Precautions and Prevention: Common Sense Hygiene.” (931 people have completed to date out of 2366 assigned)
    • To assist people in self-monitoring for virus symptoms, we now have no-touch thermometers available in all offices for performing a quick temperature check.
  • We are posting Health and Wellness resources and materials on the new website and our Sharepoint site
  • We are pushing out more HR advice and guidance around work-from-home and group benefits updates.

The CCMT is monitoring the COVID-19 situation daily and, going forward, employees can expect a regular updates, at minimum, from me or Corporate Communications. Additionally, a specific e-mail address has been created where you can reach out to report any concerns, ask questions or get additional support: [email protected].

COVID-19 FAQ’s as of Monday, March 23, 2020 

Here is the latest information about COVID-19 and B&M activities and responses, with the newest information and recommendations up first and in italics:

Useful new external FAQ links

Q:  What are the latest travel restrictions at Black & McDonald?

A:   Do not travel by air anywhere and seriously reconsider car travel outside of your home region for any reason.

Q: Is Black & McDonald going to postpone or cancel large upcoming Regional work-related gatherings such as quarterly all-staff meetings or employee social events?

A:  Assume all gatherings over 10 people are indefinitely postponed. 

From Previous FAQ Updates:

Q: What is the latest on Social Distancing?  Should I do it at home?

A:  Stopping the transmission of COVID-19 means we all must adopt extreme measures to limit our social interaction with others both at work, in public and at home.  This is what social distancing is.

If we only practice it at work and not home, we are seriously undermining our collective efforts to slow the spread of the virus.

Please follow these social distancing recommendations for work and home:

  1. Keep your distance – stay 6 feet apart from others whenever possible.
  2. Avoid all physical contact, even when greeting – no handshakes, hugs, kisses, knuckle bumps or high fives.
  3. Take care of your family but limit socializing with anyone outside the home or office– no lunches, parties, playdates, sleepovers or visiting friends.
  4. Reduce the frequency of going out in public, even to stores and restaurants,
  5. Limit interactions with older people, even parents and relatives, as they are the most vulnerable
  6. Stay home if you are sick, isolate from everyone, including family, whenever possible. And seek medical attention

These changes to your daily lives and preferred routines represent burdensome and annoying sacrifices.  But recent experiences of countries worldwide have demonstrated that taking these actions early can have a dramatic impact on the magnitude of the outbreak.

Q:  What should I do if I feel ill? Please explain what self-isolate and self-quarantine mean?

A:   We are encouraging everyone to be vigilant about monitoring their health for symptoms of COVID-19 and also identifying and reporting sources of potential exposure to the virus (contact with people who are infected, recent international travel).

In the vernacular of public health isolation and quarantine mean different but related practices.  With respect to a health emergency such as COVID-19, isolation is simply the practice of keeping ill people separate from those who are well while quarantine is the practice of restricting the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick.

So for B&M, we are using the term isolate” to describe our internal and personal efforts to keep ill people away from those who are well.

Isolate basically means you stay at home if you have COVID-19.

Self-isolate (or self-quarantine) means you stay at home because you suspect you may be ill because you have COVID-like symptoms and/or you suspect you came in contact with a person who has a suspected or confirmed case at home, in public or while travelling.

If you are ill with COVID-19 symptoms, contact your supervisor or HSE rep, and stay at home.  Isolate yourself from family and others to the best of your ability.  Follow the instructions of your local/regional health unit regarding next steps.  Seek medical attention if your condition worsens, particularly as it relates to breathing difficulties.

Q: Will I get paid if I have to self-isolate?

A: We greatly appreciate people’s concerns about this issue and rest assured we are responding with sensible and fair solutions that align with our company values.  Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer to this question because the answer is different according to what you do, where you do it, and where you live.

B&M must work in concert and be compliant with local government labour regulations and collective agreements so our internal rules governing leave compensation will vary according to geography and relevant collective agreements.   As of March 16, we are providing corporately-developed pay and leave guidelines to all B&M Regions, specific to the COVID-19 pandemic, so all offices can quickly set and implement local policy.

Governments are also actively deploying strategies to provide greater access to pandemic financial relief for employers and employees to incent responsible self-isolation practices and to extend support to ill citizens.

Q: What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

A: Those who are infected with COVID-19 may have little to no symptoms. You may not know you have symptoms of COVID-19 because they are similar to a cold or flu. Symptoms may take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to COVID-19. This is the longest known infectious period for this disease.

Symptoms include:  fever (greater than 38 degC or 100.4 degF), dry cough, and difficulty breathing.

Q: How does the virus spread?

A: COVID-19 is spread mainly from person to person through close contact. For example, in a household, workplace or public space. Respiratory droplets that are spread when you cough or sneeze, or close contact such as touching or shaking hands then touching your mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.

In general, large gatherings with transient interactions including walking by a person who may be infected with COVID-19 or briefly being in the same room with that person are considered a low risk.

Q: How can I protect myself and others against COVID-19?

A: There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19 so we recommend that the best everyday ways to protect yourself and others from the spread of germs is to:

  1. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The World Health Organization (WHO) provide an excellent tutorial on the most effective hand washing technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PmVJQUCm4E
  2. Stop touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  3. Keep your germs to yourself – Sneeze and cough into your sleeve or a disposal tissue. Stay at home if you are sick.
  4. Maintain a safe distance from sick people – at least 3 feet whenever possible
  5. Monitor your health for the signs and symptoms of the COVID-19 virus particularly fever, the onset of a dry cough, or difficulty breathing.

Q: How do I stay informed?

A:   Beyond staying abreast of B&M updates, we encourage you to continue to stay informed by visiting the World Health Organization (WHO), PHAC and CDC websites:

  1. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
  2. https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection.html
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html

Municipal health authorities are also an excellent source of general COVID-19 information, local updates, and specific instructions to citizens. For example, Toronto Public Health (https://www.toronto.ca/community-people/health-wellness-care/diseases-medications-vaccines/coronavirus/) or City of Kansas City (https://www.kcmo.gov/city-hall/departments/health/coronavirus)

Q: Is there a risk of contracting COVID-19 if I touch a surface that was potentially contaminated?

A:  Like the flu, coronaviruses are spread principally through direct contact.  Although less likely, they can be spread indirectly when respiratory droplets from an infected person contaminate nearby surfaces and objects.  To proceed with caution, we recommend good workplace hygiene – regularly disinfecting shared facilities like washrooms and kitchens, work surfaces (including door handles, coffee pots, and appliances), phones, keyboards and laptops with anti-bacterial wipes or disinfectants –particularly in high traffic areas or when workstations are shared by multiple people.

Q: Am I at risk for contracting COVID-19 if I receive a package or products shipped from high-risk countries?

A: There is no known risk of COVID-19 entering Canada or US on parcels or packages coming from affected regions. Currently there is no evidence to support the transmission of COVID-19 associated with imported goods.

Q: What if I feel sick while travelling or after I get back?

A: If you become sick when you are travelling or after you return, avoid contact with others, inform your supervisor and a member of HSE, and in most Provinces and States, contact your local public health unit to advise of your symptoms, where you have been travelling, and if you’ve made contact with a sick person. If feeling ill during a flight home or upon arrival, inform the flight attendant or a Border Security Officer.

Q: Should I be wearing a mask to protect myself or others?

A: If you are a healthy individual, the use of a mask is not necessary. However, if you are experiencing symptoms of an illness that spreads through the air, wearing a mask can help prevent the spread of the infection to others. Certain work environments within Black & McDonald may also require the use of a mask, typically defined by hazard assessment. Wearing a mask when you are not ill and are not at high risk for developing symptoms may give a false sense of security. Masks can easily become contaminated and need to be changed frequently and fitted properly for them to provide adequate protection.

Q: Can my pet or other animals get sick from the virus?

A: While a recent study suggests that the virus that causes COVID-19 may have the potential to infect some types of animals, similar to what is known for SARS-CoV, there is currently no evidence that pets or other domestic animals can be infected with COVID-19 virus or can be a source of infection to people. This however, is still under investigation as there are many unknowns to COVID-19.

The Black & McDonald COVID-19 Crisis Management Committee along with Regional resources will continue to review and assess the overall risk levels to our employees, customers, clients and subcontractors.

If you have any questions or require support, please reach out to your Health & Safety Representative or Corporate HSE.