CORONAVIRUS: A Guide for USW Canadian Members

As of April 2, 2020


COVID-19, the disease caused by the new, or “novel” coronavirus, is spreading in Canada as of March 19, 2020. Not everyone exposed gets sick, and most of those who get sick make a full recovery. But the virus is more dangerous than other respiratory diseases, like the flu. The chance of a serious infection goes up with the amount of exposure, age, and other health problems, especially heart and lung problems, and diabetes.

Stay informed and rely on trusted government and local public health authorities:

Here are some simple precautions that will reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus.

  • Wash your hands thoroughly and often. Hands should be scrubbed for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If possible, they should be dried with paper towels, not blowers, which can spread droplets. It’s especially important to wash after touching objects or surfaces that many others have touched, like doorknobs, elevator buttons, computers or cash registers. It’s also important to wash as soon as you get home after being in a public place.
  • Use hand sanitizer when you can’t wash. Hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol kills germs and viruses, if it touches them. But it does a poor job of removing dirt, where pathogens can hide. Don’t use vodka or other spirits. Anything under 120 proof won’t do a proper job.
  • Disinfect surfaces that might be touched by the public. Proper disinfectants are based on alcohol or chlorine, and are labeled as killing 99.9% of germs and viruses. It’s not necessary to frequently clean surfaces that only you touch or objects at home so long as no potentially infected person has touched or coughed on them. Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces at home and at work such as cell phones, desks, keyboards, TV remote controls, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles on cupboards, appliances, faucets, sinks and toilets.
  • Try not to touch your face with potentially contaminated hands. Some infections come from airborne droplets, but most people become infected when they touch their face after touching a contaminated surface. Under the right conditions the virus can live for up to four days on a surface. Indoor surfaces are worse than outdoor surfaces, since the UV-radiation in sunlight is a disinfectant. It’s hard not to touch your face. Frequent washing helps. A good strategy is to keep a box of tissues or wipes handy and put one over your fingers if you need to touch surfaces or your face.
  • Maintain physical distancing. Avoid crowds! Avoid public places as much as possible. Don’t shake hands. In public, stay two metres (six feet) away from other people.
  • If you’re sick, stay home. The symptoms of COVID-19 are a dry cough of unknown origin, fever, and sometimes, shortness of breath. If you know the reason for the cough, for example asthma or an allergy, and you have no other symptoms, it’s unlikely to be COVID-19. But any other cough or symptom should trigger a call to your physician and, in the case of a cough plus a fever, a call to a public health department for a COVID-19 test. If the symptoms become severe you may need to go to the hospital, but call first, so the hospital is prepared.
  • If you’ve been around a person known to be infected, stay home for 14 days. Many employers are establishing policies requiring or allowing this, and are paying people for the time off. You may have legal protections too. If your employer retaliates against you or threatens to, let the union know right away. You may be eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB).  
  • Get a flu shot, if you haven’t already. The flu vaccine does not protect you from coronavirus. But having the flu along with coronavirus is especially dangerous. This would also be a good time to review all your vaccinations with your physician, and make sure they’re up to date.
  • Stay up to date. You can check reliable websites, like the ones below, and news organizations, like the major networks and the CBC. A few other links are below. And check the USW website for updated information.
  • And finally, keep our brave health-care workers, front-line workers and first responders in your thoughts. Many are union members. All of them are fighting hard to protect us, often at risk of their own health. They are the heroes of this pandemic.

Other links for more information:

For more information and resources for workers, see our USW page on COVID-19:

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