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York Region's top doc brings in hefty fines to enforce cooperation with public health unit

Individuals who don't toe the line face fines of $5,000 and $100,000 a day, and corporations $25,000 and $10 million a day, under a section 22 class order and “letter of instruction” issued by Dr. Karim Kurji
2021 01 17 COVID-19 enforcement task force

In the wake of York Region’s transition from lockdown to the red zone, the medical officer of health is drawing a line in the sand that comes with a heavy cost for individuals, employers and corporations who aren’t cooperating with the public health unit.

Individuals who don't toe the line face hefty fines of $5,000 and $100,000 a day, and corporations $25,000 and $10 million a day, if they don’t cooperate with York Region Public Health under a section 22 class order and “letter of instruction” issued by Dr. Karim Kurji tonight, according to York Region director of corporate communications Patrick Casey. 

“Both emphasize the need to cooperate with our public health staff who are experiencing reoccurring instances of individuals withholding information as part of our investigations,” Casey said.

The section order reinforces that residents who are diagnosed with or have symptoms of COVID-19, or are a close contact, must follow all instructions from the public health unit, Casey said.

Under the order, the fines are $5,000 for an individual and $25,000 for a corporation under the Health Protection and Promotion Act for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues.

The letter of instruction requires workplaces to follow best practices and support vaccination of staff, such as health-care workers and those prioritized by the Ontario Ministry of Health, according to Casey.

Failure to comply with the letter of instruction will result in fines of $100,000 for an individual and $10 million for a corporation under the Reopening Ontario Act for every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues, he said.

Last week, Kurji told regional councillors that he was considering stepping up the penalties for the “few bad apples” whose lack of cooperation with the public health unit is contributing to the spread of COVID-19 in our communities.

In one example he cited, a household with seven variant cases didn’t inform public health of the midwives who had unknowingly visited the home for a birth when the family was infectious. Withholding the information resulted in four midwives being infected with COVID-19 variants.

In another situation, at a daycare with COVID-19, the operator didn’t provide parents with the public health letter regarding measures to follow to prevent further spread, which meant children were not in isolation for the required time periods.

“York Region recognizes the incredible work businesses have done to ensure the safety of employees and patrons,” Casey said. “We must remain vigilant in our efforts to keep everyone safe, especially as York Region businesses resume opening within the red control zone under the province’s reopening framework.”