Hazard Assessment & Risk Mitigation
Symptoms of COVID-19 can vary from person to person and can range from mild to severe. Most adults infected with COVID-19 will have mild symptoms that do not require care outside of the home. COVID-19 can have a severe impact on people with specific health circumstances, including older individuals, people with compromised immune systems, or those who have underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart and lung conditions.
The COVID-19 virus has a very low infection rate in children and youth. Children and youth typically have much milder symptoms of COVID-19, most often presenting with “cough, fever and sore throat.” Many children have asymptomatic disease; however, there is no conclusive evidence that children who are asymptomatic pose a risk to other children or to adults. Evidence indicates transmission involving children is primarily limited to household settings, and from COVID-19 positive adults to children. Most cases in children have been linked to a symptomatic household member.
The COVID-19 Delta variant (B.1.617.2) was classified as a variant of concern (VOC) in Canada on May 14, 2021. Current evidence suggests that the Delta variant may have a higher transmissibility and secondary attack rates and higher risk of hospitalization. As of August 18, 2021 the Delta variant now accounts for more than 90% of COVID-19 cases detected in testing.
Coronavirus is transmitted via direct and indirect contact. It is most commonly spread from an infected person through:
- Respiratory droplets generated when someone coughs or sneezes
- Close, prolonged personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
- Touching something with the virus on it, then touching the mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands.
SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, spreads from an infected person to others through respiratory droplets and aerosols when an infected person breathes, coughs, sneezes, sings, shouts, or talks. The droplets vary in size, from large sometimes called aerosols, which linger in the air, especially in indoor spaces.
The relative infectiousness of droplets of different sizes is not clear. Infectious droplets or aerosols may come into direct contact with the mucous membranes of another person’s nose, mouth or eyes, or they may be inhaled into their nose, mouth, airways and lungs. The virus may also spread when a person touches another person (i.e., a handshake) or a surface or an object that has the virus on it, and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes with unwashed hands.
When assessing the likelihood of transmission/infection, the following are important:
- Contact intensity – the type of contact (close/distant) and the duration of contact (brief/prolonged)
- Number of contacts in the setting – the number of people present at the same time
It should be recognized that it will not be possible to remove all risk of infection and disease now that SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) is well established in communities. Mitigation of risk, while easing restrictions, will be needed for the foreseeable future. Pickering College is committed to taking the steps necessary to safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of the members of our community – students, faculty and staff, visitors and contractors.
Infection prevention and exposure control measures help create a safe environment for students, staff and visitors. Pickering College will use the controls listed below to prioritize risk mitigation steps.
Public Health Measures
These are actions taken across society at the population level to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2 virus and reduce the impact of COVID-19. These measures include orders from the Federal, Provincial and Local Health Officers such as prohibiting mass gatherings, requiring travellers to self-isolate or quarantine upon arrival in Ontario, effective testing and contact tracing, and emphasizing the importance for people to stay home when they are sick.
These are changes to the physical environment that reduce the risk of exposure. Examples include being outdoors, using visual cues for maintaining physical distance, and more frequent cleaning and disinfecting routines.
These are measures enabled through the implementation of policies, procedures, training and education and include changing scheduling (classes, drop off and pick up etc.) and work practices, and decreased density of individuals on campus at any given time as well as health and wellness policies and using virtual learning opportunities.
These are actions individuals can take to protect themselves and others. They include updated illness policies to insist that individuals stay home when they are sick, maintaining physical distance/minimizing physical contact, and hand and cough hygiene.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
This the last and least effective of the infection prevention and exposure control measures and should only be considered after exploring all other measures. PPE is not effective as a stand-alone preventive measure, should be suited to the task, and must be worn and disposed of properly. Outside of the health care settings, the effectiveness is generally limited to protecting others. PPE includes gloves, face shields and face masks.
Pickering College has made ventilation improvements as a key element in the protective strategies to support a healthy and safe learning/work environment for students and staff.
We use the highest grade filters in our ventilation system (MERV 13) that are changed out every three months.
Every classroom, office and residence room has a stand alone high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter unit. These units ensure particle filtration of air and improve air exchange.
Faculty, staff and students are encouraged to open the windows throughout the day as able to enhance air exchange.
COVID-19 vaccination is one of the most effective ways to help protect ourselves, and our families and communities against COVID-19.
COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are free of charge and widely available. Vaccines are safe and effective. Effective August 17, 2021, the Government of Ontario will allow all individuals born in 2009 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Children will no longer have to wait until they turn 12 to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine as long as they were born in 2009.
Currently, Pfizer is the only vaccine authorized by the Government of Canada for those age 12 or older (born in 2009). While younger people are less likely to experience serious cases of COVID-19, the vaccine is a safe and effective way to help control the virus and support the return to a more normal life.
Vaccines are an important part of the overall health and disease prevention. The following vaccines are approved by Health Canada.
Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine – approved for use in people 12 years of age (born in 2009). This vaccine requires two doses.
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine: What you should know.
Moderna Vaccine – approved for use in people 18 years and older. This vaccine requires two doses.
Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know.
AstraZeneca Vaccine – use of this vaccine has been temporarily paused by the Government of Ontario.
AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know.
Janssen Vaccine (Johnson & Johnson) – approved for use in people 18 years of age and older. This vaccine requires only one dose.
Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Should Know.