New research reveals pandemic public health measures targeted wrong groups during second wave of COVID-19

November 18, 2021

A recently published study led by Dr. Amy Greer, an expert in population disease modeling and associate professor at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph shows that despite public health measures implemented during fall 2020 to ensure that social contacts remained low, work-related contacts increased dramatically resulting in the continued spread of COVID-19 in workplace settings. 

The study, which included a two-part survey with nearly 12,000 people, investigated how individuals in Canada changed their contact patterns under Public Health restrictions between May and December 2020.  

At the time, public messaging suggested that transmission of COVID-19 was driven by individuals failing to follow Public Health advice — Greer’s data tells a different story. 

“We saw a dramatic increase in the number of contacts that were occurring in the workplace,” says Greer. “We didn’t see increases in social contacts in other types of settings.” 

Greer cites the then-broad definition of essential work, which led to many employers electing to have employees physically return to the workplace, and the limited ability for employees to self-isolate due to a lack of paid sick days as major contributors to disease spread through work settings. 

“These findings confirm that workplaces played an important role in transmission during the second wave of COVID-19 in Canada,” says Greer. “Mitigation efforts, at the time, generally did not address them.” 

Read more about this research and other studies funded by the U of G COVID-19 Research Development and Catalyst Fund on the University of Guelph’s Office of Research website.  

Dr. Amy Greer is a Canada Research Chair in Population Disease Modeling and Associate Professor in the Department of Population Medicine, Ontario Veterinary College at the University of Guelph. Dr. Greer has previously held scientific positions in the Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control at the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto. She completed her postdoctoral training at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Dr. Greer’s research program explores the introduction, spread, dynamics, and control of infectious diseases in populations. She integrates empirical data with mathematical models to test the mechanisms leading to the epidemic spread of pathogens and identify optimal intervention and control strategies. Her research aims to examine the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of both public health and veterinary health interventions in order to make informed decisions regarding public health policy. 


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