As Manitobans pack up their desks Friday, Public Health is explaining why they are asking people to work from home.

In the upcoming Public Health Orders, the Chief Public Health Officer has asked workplaces to allow their employees to work from home. Dr. Jazz Atwal, the Deputy Public Health Officer in Manitoba, says, for the most part, workplaces have been safe and workplaces are not an issue.

"What happens is, as we go through the acquisition events, the transmission, what happened in that workplace, more often than not it wasn't the workplace where transmission occurred. It happened let's say with a carpool coming in to work, it happened with someone getting together on the weekend, it happened with the breakdown of the protocol per se in the workplace."

Atwal says this could include coworkers sitting at a table in the break room, having lunch together. 

atwalAtwal says activities outside of work duties are the main cause of coworkers contracting COVID-19. (Screenshot: Government of Manitoba/Supplied)

When asked how many workplaces have seen cases of COVID and which workplaces are the most common, Atwal said "most often the workplace isn't the issue. Most people right now who are out and about are working. You are working five days a week, you are working seven days a week. Does it mean the workplace caused the case? That is the better question to ask."

He says the data has been collected but they do not have a way to compile workplace data at this point. He could not say which kind of workplaces see the most transmission. 

"We do not have data that is presentable, I would say. I think we would have to find a way that is presentable and that is going to involve a lot of work," Atwal says. "We review each and every single case related to a cluster to determining where the risk was." 

This includes workplaces where two or more people with COVID have been identified working. The doctor says multiple cases do not necessarily mean there is a workplace cluster. He says "anytime there are clusters in workplaces public health is involved."

The doctor did not have data to share on how many workplaces have been transmission sites and the province will not be compiling that data. He says Public Health has other priorities before they present workplace data. 

Many workers have remained out of the office for more than a year. Previously, outbreaks have been declared in large work facilities, including at Mape Leaf in Brandon. The Prairie Mountain cases were linked to co-workers gathering outside of the workplace, something Atwal remains firm on being a current source of transmission between coworkers.