COVID-19 information for employees and volunteers
Download audio file or jump to responses
Click the questions below to jump to the responses within the Live employee Q&A with our CEO:
- When are you going to open gyms? On the frontline we feel this is crucial for our wellbeing
- Many of us have a land line desk phone forwarded to our cell phone. Is the plan to eventually cut costs by getting rid of land lines where feasible to do so?
- With the announcement of Pauline Port leaving CBS, what is being put in place to ensure DEI is taking into account for her replacement.
- This year it’s been critical to get flu shots with ongoing pandemic. Are we organizing flu clinics like we do each year? As we see shortages in Flu shots throughout the nation, what has been done to secure Flu shots for employee safety?
- Would you please comment on the recent studies suggesting some blood types are more susceptible to COVID than others?
- As we are experiencing spikes in COVID across the country, is there any consideration to push out the phases to return to work? Phase one is this month, is this still the case?
- Our convalescent plasma donors are able to donate every week if their antibodies are high enough (750 mls). Our multi-plasma donors are only able to donate every 56 days with the same amount of plasma collected. With a greater need for Plasma collections, when will this discrepancy be corrected?
- Hi Graham, I was wondering if you have heard anything more about the vaccines that are undergoing trial and if there is a feeling that one will be in place before the end of the year and do you know if this will be a mandatory requirement for if / when we return to work?
- My understanding is once a COVID vaccine becomes readily available, it will most likely be administered to the most vulnerable populations first (i.e. seniors, frontline healthcare workers, essential workers). Is CBS leadership advocating on behalf of our frontline to be amongst the primary populations in-line to receive the vaccine?
- While it is great and undoubtably beneficial for senior female leaders to meet as a group, has any consideration been given to have a similar group for the rest of the female leaders (corporate wide or by region/division)?
- With the many new and upcoming plasma sites across the provinces, is there any direction to move to a fractionation site within Canada?
- It feels as if we are no longer limiting the number of people allowed inside of our donor centres and it once again is starting to feel like "the more the merrier" approach. For example, a clinic I worked the other day had a quote of 115. We over collected at 124 with 137 donors through the doors. What is the maximum capacity that COVID guidelines allow for our clinics?
- I read that labs that are testing for Covid are concerned about a potential shortage of supplies such as plastic tubes, pipette tips, reagents etc. Will this have any impact on our testing facilities?
What employees need to know: Your digest
October 27, 2020
We want to make it easy for employees to access the latest from Canadian Blood Services. Every Tuesday and Friday, we will be bringing you important COVID-19 updates along with valuable information and inspiring stories about other parts of our operations.
We know things are rapidly changing; please remember you can always reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and suggestions on how we can better help employees.
Here is the latest.
The COVID caregiver’s series: Being a working caregiver is a balancing act. Managing both in a pandemic can seem next to impossible and increase feelings of isolation. During Healthy Workplace Month, your colleagues are sharing the challenges they’re facing, the steps they’re taking and how open communication can make all the difference. Today, we bring you a story from Karen Power, a logistics supervisor for frontline employees in St. John’s, Nfld and mom to her young daughter. Read more about her struggles of being a working caregiver on Connect. If you are struggling, please know there are resources available for your through the employee assistance program and the COVID-19 leave supports for employees.
Recruiting new donors in a pandemic — meet territory manager, Jhoanna Del Rosario: Jhoanna understands first-hand how critical the need for blood donations is. In 2012, Jhoanna’s father was being treated for cancer in her native Philippines and needed blood transfusions. For his care providers, it wasn’t a simple matter of ordering units from the hospital blood bank. In the Philippines’ patients depend on volunteer donations from family and friends; if not enough donors are available, blood must be purchased. And when the cost of a single unit can be equivalent to half the average weekly wage, this adds a significant financial burden to the emotional stress of supporting a loved one. Living 10,0000 km in Canada, she channeled her sense of helplessness into helping other people. Today, as territory manager for Calgary, Jhoanna is responsible for recruiting new blood donors, engaging with existing ones and forging partnerships. Her team is also focused on recruiting people from other diverse groups. Read more about Jhoanna on Connect.
Blood donor events celebrate patient’s ongoing recovery: Dozens of Peter Regan’s friends and family members will donate blood during a series of donor events this month in London, Ont. The events celebrate not only Peter’s 65th birthday and his longstanding community service, but also his ongoing recovery from leukemia. “It’s been a difficult and emotional year for Peter, our family and all our friends,” says Lissa Regan, Peter’s wife of 42 years. “Lots of ups and downs.” Read more about Peter and the friends, family, and work colleagues that booked so quickly to support on blood.ca/stories.
Question of the day: Will the regional winners of Living Our Values be announced soon? Also, why were this year’s nominees not made public during the nomination period like they were last year?
Earlier this summer, employees submitted 329 Living Our Values nominations, recognizing 182 colleagues and 31 teams as role models, who exemplify Canadian Blood Services’ values.
Selection teams from each region (as well as from the NCC and head office) reviewed each nomination. After careful consideration, the following regional and team Award of Distinction recipients were selected:
- Team: Charlottetown donor centre team
- ATL: Patricia Royan, donor care associate
- BCY: Sunil Mudliar, facilities manager
- HO: Debbie Cundill, divisional partner
- NCC: Simone Ebbinghaus, RN, information
- ONN: Naweed Malik, supervisor, field logistics
- PRN: Aaron Barlow, territory manager
A head office selection committee reviewed the above nominations. While all recipients are deserving, Aaron Barlow has been awarded the National Award of Distinction by EMT.
Over the next few weeks, we will be pausing to celebrate all recipients at our regional virtual service awards events and sharing their stores through Connect, where we will also list all nominees. Stay tuned!
About your digest
This digest will highlight the latest policy and employee support measures, resources to help you manage our new reality and original content like articles and videos to remind us that what we do matters. No access to email? No problem — all this information and more can be found on blood.ca/employees from any device, no login required.
Click here to read past editions of your digest.
Mandatory temperature checks for employees, volunteers and contractors have been implemented across all Canadian Blood Services facilities. Here are the steps you need to know to properly complete your employee temperature check.
Q&A: Stay informed
Wherever you go, friends, family, colleagues and the media are talking about COVID-19. The situation is evolving quickly — the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the virus a global pandemic and the Government of Canada pledged $1B to support activities to respond to COVID-19 across the country.
As the situation evolves rapidly, so does our response. Please continue to check this section as our policies and procedures develop.
Your feedback is incredibly valuable as it helps us better understand the areas we need to be looking at. If your question is not answered in the Q&A’s below, please contact us at email@example.com so we can find an answer for you.
How is Canadian Blood Services responding?
Canadian Blood Services is being proactive to mitigate the risk. Our team of leaders and employees managing this complex and rapidly evolving situation have specialized expertise — and are positioning us well to continue honouring our commitment to collect products and provide products and services for patients.
In addition to following the recommendations put forth by the Public Health Agency of Canada, we have the following tools at our disposal to guide our response to COVID-19:
- Our pandemic plan and declared emergency policy
- An established business continuity management committee (BCMC) that is meeting regularly along with project teams focused on communications, operations, medical and surveillance and employees
- Local emergency response teams (LERTs) that are gathering intelligence from frontline staff, volunteers and donors to ensure we are addressing all areas of concern
- Ongoing media monitoring that will guide our responses to every issue in lockstep with the latest scientific research, epidemiological information and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
Are we testing for COVID-19?
Canadian Blood Services and Héma-Québec have formed a research partnership with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force to determine the prevalence of the COVID-19 antibody in Canadians’ blood serum. This partnership was announced by the Federal Government on June 17, 2020.
The prevalence of the COVID-19 antibody is an indicator of how many Canadians have been exposed to the COVID-19 virus. This study provides donors with yet another reason to give blood — they’re helping create a strong foundation of evidence to support future health policy decisions surrounding COVID-19.
Will donors be notified?
At the current time, the test assay has not been fully validated which means that we don’t know if a positive result is truly positive, or if a negative result is truly negative. This is part of the reason the study is being conducted.
In addition, unlike the other testing we do, such as for HIV or hepatitis, a positive result to the COVID-19 antibody test would not result in the donor requiring medical attention. The antibody’s presence indicates that the individual has already successfully overcome the virus that causes COVID-19.
The purpose of this study is to get a broad sense of how prevalent the disease has been in the population overall, not to determine the status of individual donors. As science evolves, we will continue to re-evaluate this issue within the context of our privacy, legal and ethical framework.
Are we approving domestic business travel?
As we move into the months ahead we recognize that there is work that is essential to our operations that may require travel. We also understand that as our knowledge of the pandemic evolves, there may be uncertainty around what essential travel means.
To help our teams manage essential business travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have implemented a new online travel approval process. To make it easy for you to understand how the new process works, we have added a new travel approval page to Connect.
On that page you will find detailed information, including step-by-step instructions for submitting a request and criteria for how decisions will be made. While we hope to see a time where we can resume normal business travel, it is too early to tell what it might look like if or when it returns. We will continue to follow the guidance provided by public health and provide updates to employees as they become available.
Are we approving international business travel?
In normal times, business travel has been an important part of our work at Canadian Blood Services. It enables relationship building, understanding of our operations on a deeper level, strengthens connections with co-workers and stakeholders and allows us to deliver on projects nationwide.
While domestic business travel is being assessed on a case-by-case basis through our essential travel approval process, at this time we will not be approving international business travel. This decision follows the guidance of the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial/territorial public health. It also takes into consideration current restrictions by our corporate travel insurance partner. At this time, coverage does not apply to COVID-19 related illnesses while traveling outside of Canada.
The same advice from PHAC applies to international personal travel. It is important to remember that if you are considering personal travel outside of the country, that you check your personal travel insurance before leaving. Following the advice from public health, upon your return you must isolate for 14 days, monitor your symptoms and inform your manager/supervisor.
If you have questions about international business travel, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
How do I access credible information on COVID-19?
With so much misinformation out there, it is important that you have access to trusted and credible sources of information. We recommend the following sources:
- Public Health Agency of Canada
- World Health Organization
- Centres for Disease Control Prevention
- Canadian Blood Services
If you have a question on COVID-19 that we have not answered, please contact us at email@example.com.
Q&A: Collections events
Why are donors no longer allowed to wear masks with valves?
Effective Monday, September 28, vented masks with valves are not permitted in Canadian Blood Services sites. This is decision is aligned with guidance from public health which has determined that masks with exhalation valves don’t protect others from COVID-19 and don’t limit the spread of COVID-19.
The use of vented masks increases the risk of an individual generating droplets which may spread outside of the mask and/or land on surfaces. Although enhanced cleaning practices are in place, it is difficult to disinfect an area after each use. As a result, this style of mask may put our teams, volunteers and other donors and operations at risk.
Donors who arrive wearing a mask with valves should be advised that their mask is not permitted in our sites and should be offered a Canadian Blood Services supplied cloth mask to wear instead.
Why are donors no longer allowed to wear gaiter/buff-style masks?
Effective Monday, September 28, gaiter/buff-style masks are not permitted in Canadian Blood Services sites. They have not been designed or certified as protection against viruses, so they are not suitable for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Gaiter/buff style masks are not considered as effective at preventing the spread of COVID-19. They are not designed to be masks and as they are loose fitting, they do not align with the WHO recommendation that a mask should fit snugly around your mouth and nose. As a result, this style of mask may put our teams, volunteers and other donors and operations at risk.
Donors who arrive wearing a gaiter/buff-style mask should be advised that their mask is not permitted in our sites and should be offered a Canadian Blood Services supplied cloth mask to wear instead.
What if a donor refuses to wear a Canadian Blood Services Mask instead of their valve/gaiter/buff-style mask?
Unfortunately, at this time we are only able to allow donors to enter Canadian Blood Services sites if they are wearing an appropriate mask. This decision was made with an abundance of caution to protect the safety of our teams, our donors and our essential operations.
We, along with the global community are still understanding how COVID-19 is transmitted from one person to another, and how the virus lives on different types of surfaces. Without an appropriate mask, individuals may generate droplets which may spread and/or land on surfaces. We clean our clinics and high touch areas frequently, however not wearing an appropriate mask may put others at risk.
This decision reduces the possibility of contamination, is aligned with the latest advice from public health and allows us to better assess impact of cases of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 who have been in our sites.
Even if blood donation is not a possibility at this time, there are many other ways to give. They may be encouraged to volunteer their time, give a one-time or recurring financial donation, organize group donations in collaboration with another organization or community, or even sponsor a donation event. With their help, we can connect patients with the life essentials they need, where and when they need them.
What changes are being make to post-donation refreshments?
To support our decision to implement mandatory masks for donors, we will be introducing a new system in our refreshment areas effective May 11. To limit the risk of spreading the virus, donors will be asked to sit for five minutes in the refreshment area with their masks on after their donation to rest and to allow collections staff to monitor their wellbeing. After their rest period, they will be encouraged to grab a snack and refreshment to consume after they leave the donor centre. If a donor chooses not to spend time in the recovery area they would be offered a snack and refreshment to go. This measure is one of many we are taking to protect the safety employees, volunteers and donors.
What if a donor is feeling faint during their donation and needs a sip of water?
Donor centre teams should continue to monitor and respond to donor reactions in line with existing practices. If a donor requires the removal of a mask to assist with breathing, needing water, or a cold compress — this would be should be administered as required. In circumstances where an employee needs to assist a donor who must remove their mask, we recommend that the employee supplement their PPE with a face shield.
How will this new measure impact our volunteers?
Volunteers continue to be a vital part of the donation experience: Since the outbreak of the global pandemic, we have implemented several enhanced wellness measures and screening protocols to help protect everyone within our donor centre environment, including our dedicated volunteers. In our most recent enhanced wellness initiative, we have made face masks a mandatory requirement for everyone while within our centres.
Rest and relaxation in our hospitality areas will continue to be part of the post-donation process but we’re now asking donors to simply take only the refreshments they need and wait until they are outside our centres to consume them. Volunteers will be a key component in ensuring this message gets delivered to every donor in addition continue to monitor the donors on their overall experience and that they have picked up a snack and drink to enjoy after they have left our centres.
Are we telling donors to have water and food before they enter?
We are encouraging donors to eat something salty prior to their appointment and drink 500 mL of water to helps their blood volume and improve their donation experience.
Now that donors are expected to wear masks, will we still be giving them water?
On Monday, May 11 we will no longer be providing donors with bottled water prior to their donation. This measure supports our decision on mandatory masks and is one of many in place to protect the safety of employees, volunteers and donors.
To ensure our donors have a positive experience, we are encouraging donors to eat something salty prior to their appointment and drink 500 mL of water to helps their blood volume and improve their donation experience.
If a donor asks for a drink upon arrival, can they have one?
Yes. However, we must ask that they consume it outside of the donor centre.
How are you ensuring that donors continue to have a safe donation experience?
Donors will be reminded prior to donation that they should eat a salty snack in addition to drinking lots of water before their arrival.
During their donation, our team will be asking donors to do muscle tension exercises to help prevent post-donation reactions and monitoring them throughout to ensure they are feeling well.
I have a cough due to a pre-existing condition. I am concerned that if I answer “yes” to having a cough at the wellness checkpoint that I will not be permitted to enter the building even through it isn’t related to COVID-19. What should I do?
Some employees may have COVID-like symptoms that are caused by another medical issue such as allergies or asthma. A declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the letter with them each time they report to work and may be required to wear a mask during their shift. For more information, please speak with your supervisor.
If an employee cannot obtain a letter from their Doctor because of a variety of reasons, we ask that they stay home until they are able to do so. To avoid unnecessary trips outside of the home, we understand that health care providers may be able to email EHS with the letter.
What enhanced measures are being taken to protect donors, employees and volunteers at our donor centres?
When a donor, employee or volunteer walks through our doors they can take comfort in knowing that we are taking proactive steps to limit the risk of infection.
Following the advice of the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and international blood operators, enhanced cleaning and physical distancing measures and wellness screening checkpoints for all individuals are now in place to make sure individuals entering are healthy.
Our team is consistently monitoring and assessing whether additional measures are necessary to protect the health and safety of donors, employees and volunteers. Click here for an overview of the measures we have put in place.
Is personal protective equipment (PPE) being provided to employees in collections environments?
Effective March 31, we have implemented a plan for PPE for staff in collections environments. To learn more about these measures, please visit blood.ca/employees/ppe
What new measures are we implementing on our life buses?
We have implemented new measures to limit the risk of infection on our life buses.
All passengers must go through our active screening checkpoint by the champion of the event to ensure they are healthy.
We have also reduced the number of passengers allowed on each bus, will enforce physical distancing of two metres in-between each person aboard and have enhanced the frequency of cleaning on all surfaces and equipment on board the bus.
How are employees being screened in donor centres?
It is important for our employees who are working on the front line to know that Canadian Blood Services is being proactive to mitigate the risk to both employees and donors. We have implemented the Wellness Checkpoint screening process at sites nationally to now include screening of all staff, contractors, donors, visitors and volunteers. Staff are asked to comply with the Wellness Checkpoint process and to inform their contractors of the Wellness Checkpoint.
In addition, a number of provisions are in effect to ensure that the employees working in our donor centres are healthy.
- Employees are being asked to monitor their symptoms. Any employee who is sick, including but not limited to those who develop flu-like symptoms, is instructed to stay away from the workplace.
- Employees with flu-like symptoms are being asked to contact their physician and public health agency for direction on whether it is safe to come into work.
- Any employee diagnosed with COVID-19 would not return to work until they are fully recovered and cleared to do so by public health.
- Any employee who is sick will be paid at their regular rate of pay for hours that would otherwise be worked, even if they would normally not have paid sick leave, or have paid sick leave that is less than their regular rate of pay
- Employees do not need to provide medical documentation to their managers
- Employees must follow the Public Health Agency of Canada advice to self-isolate for 14 days if returning from international travel. They are not expected to report to work under these circumstances.
There are gathering bans in parts of Canada, does this apply to Canadian Blood Services?
No, gathering bans do not apply to blood donor centres during a State of Emergency. A State of Emergency has been called in several provinces with limits on the number of people attending social and recreational gatherings.
Blood donor centres are neither a social nor recreational gathering. Given our unique role within Canadian healthcare, we are committed to welcoming donors to our collection centres during a declared State of Emergency.
Why are we providing infrared thermometers to employees and not donors?
We understand that donors are eager for Canadian Blood Services to replace the Carescape oral thermometers with infrared devices.
Although infrared technology has evolved and considered precise when used as recommended, the long-term accuracy and reliability are not fully understood, and so at this time the Carescape oral thermometer is considered the most accurate way to take temperature.
We are in the process of securing a contactless solution, however it will require an extensive assessment of the technology available to ensure we are meeting Canadian Blood Services operational needs as well as regulatory requirements from Health Canada and can continue to meet patient needs for years to come.
Although this process is underway, it will be some time before new devices are available to take donor temperatures.
While we undergo the evaluation for infrared devices, donors can be assured that enhanced safety measures are in place, including the disinfection of the Carescape device between uses, to keep them, our teams, and ultimately the patients we serve safe.
Q&A: Support for employees
How do I access caregiver leave?
We know that working parents and caregivers continue to face challenges fulfilling professional obligations while being a primary caregiver. With the uncertainty of kids heading back to school, stress and anxiety for these employees is high, so financial supports will continue to be made available.
Caregiver leave at 100 per cent of pay will remain available to employees who are primary caregivers and who as a result cannot perform their duties either virtually or otherwise and who have made reasonable attempts to find alternative care. This extends to employees who choose to keep their children home from school due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
There are options to consider if you are feeling as though you need to choose between work and your family’s wellbeing. Speak with your manager/supervisor to determine if flex-time, reduced hours, or virtual work can be incorporated.
Will quarantine leave apply to issues involving my child now that they are back-to-school? What about if I or some I live with is immune compromised?
As kids head back to school, and the virus evolves, it is important that we continue to offer support for employees who cannot perform their duties because they, or someone they live with, are required to stay home by public health, or are immune compromised.
We will continue to make quarantine leave available to all employees who cannot perform their duties either virtually or otherwise and have made reasonable attempts to arrange for alternative care as applicable, due to the following circumstances:
An employee is directed to stay home by public health because they, or someone they live with has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or is awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test.
An employee, their child, or someone they are a primary caregiver for has been instructed by public health to quarantine because they have been in contact with someone diagnosed, or potentially diagnosed with COVID-19.
Employees who are immune compromised or live with someone who is immune compromised.
Employees who live with someone who is immune compromised, including elderly individuals, and who choose not to send their children to school as a result.
Are we providing employees with sick leave?
At the onset of the pandemic, we had to respond quickly. We implemented a number of new measures to support employees, including 100 per cent sick leave pay for all staff for any illness with no medical documentation required. Our teams have adjusted, and we now have the capacity to return to some of our regular processes regarding non-COVID-related sick leave.
Effective September 28 the following provisions will apply:
We will continue to encourage employees who are sick to remain off work.
Employees who utilize sick leave for COVID-19 related illnesses, including mental illness, will continue to be paid sick leave at 100 per cent.
Employees who utilize sick leave for reasons other than COVID-19 related illnesses, will be compensated as per their normal sick leave provisions.
As the strain on the medical community is subsiding, medical documentation may now be required to substantiate sick leave.
Payment of sick leave will not exceed the normal waiting period for Long Term Disability benefits for eligible employees.
We understand that this will impact certain employees who are currently on sick leave for non-COVID illnesses and receiving 100 per cent pay. To give these employees time to adapt to this decision, we are not implementing the change until September 28. If you are affected by this decision, we strongly encourage you to speak with your manager for further guidance.
Why are we no longer providing pandemic top-ups?
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to limit our operations and reduce work, predominantly for our frontline teams. We are happy to share that we are operating at or above the 2020–2021 collections plan — meaning, our teams are now back to work as if the pandemic-related reduction of work never occurred.
Now that we have largely resumed normal operations, there is no loss of work for pandemic-related reasons. As a result, we will be discontinuing the pandemic top-up pay effective September 28.
This may affect some employees whose top-up hours of work exceed those that they receive per the 2020–2021 collections plan. To give these employees time to adapt to this decision, we are not implementing the change until September 28. If you are affected by this decision, we strongly encourage you to speak with your manager for further guidance.
Should the pandemic affect our operations further, such as during a second wave of COVID-19, we will review whether the pandemic top-up should be reinstated.
What is our return to office plan?
Virtual work has become the norm for many of us and we are thankful that employees have transitioned to this unexpected change. As we begin to hear about other organizations talking about the future of returning to work, or businesses like Shopify announcing they will remain virtual, we have put together a dedicated team to focus on how we will continue work, while physical distancing mandates are in place and beyond.
The return to office and virtual work plan will consider how we will safely return to work at our sites as well as how we will continue to support those working virtually. Even as provincial restrictions are loosening, the pandemic is still alive and physical distancing will be required for some time. Physical distancing means we cannot have 100% of employees back 100% of the time.
For more information, visit our Return to Office Plan page.
What PPE is available for employees and volunteers?
As our knowledge of the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, we are constantly reviewing our practices to ensure that they are consistent with the latest science, government regulations and advice from public health. To keep our teams safe and protect our essential operations, we are also assessing how our current practices must be modified as new initiatives, like return to office, start to ramp up.
Here is an overview of the PPE measures in place at Canadian Blood Services effective Thursday, July 16:
- In operational environments, including testing, distribution production and logistics, surgical masks will be mandatory at all times. This decision was made with an abundance of caution given the essential nature of the work involved and challenges with maintaining physical distancing.
- In collections environments, including permanent and mobile donor centres, surgical masks will continue to be mandatory. This measure will now extend to before and after donors arrive, including logistics teams who are involved in setting up and taking down mobile events.
- In administrative environments, such as office buildings and common areas, cloth masks will be mandatory at all times, except when an employee is alone at their workstation. Employees are welcome to use their own mask, or one that is provided by our cloth mask inventory. A cloth mask is the minimum requirement for administrative environments, but if an employee will be working in both operational and administrative environments on the same day, they can wear a surgical mask in both environments.
For more information, visit our PPE page.
What is the process of returning to work after I have been ill?
Return to work after a COVID-19+ diagnosis
Any employee who has tested positive for COVID-19 will fall under the care and direction of local public health authorities, who will advise when the employee is safe to return to work. Please advise Employee Health Services, who will confirm the information with public health. Recovering employees may have COVID-like symptoms, such as a residual cough, which would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint. Therefore, Employee Health Services will issue the employee a letter advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work.
Return to work after COVID-like symptoms
Employees who have had COVID-like symptoms should only return to work following the applicable regional public health authority guidance. If the employee has residual symptoms that would normally restrict them from passing through the wellness checkpoint, a written declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the EHS letter with them each time they report to work and may be required to wear a mask during their shift.
Employees with COVID-like symptoms due to another medical issue
Some employees may have COVID-like symptoms that are caused by another medical issue such as allergies or asthma. A declaration from their physician will need to be provided to Employee Health Services in order for a letter to be issued advising that they are safe to report to work and can pass through the wellness checkpoint. Employees should bring the letter with them each time they report to work and may be required to wear a mask during their shift.
If you have questions, please contact your Employee Health Services representative.
I work from home and I want to get a virtual assessment for my home office. How do I do this?
With many employees now working virtually, it is important keep in mind the effects on your health, safety and productivity when setting up your home workstation.
Employees working from home are encouraged to visit our ergonomics page on Connect to get tools on how to successfully set up a temporary home office. On the page you will find helpful information, including how to properly set up your computer monitor, incorporate a sit/stand desk into your setup and stretching exercises that you can incorporate into your day.
Another exciting feature of the ergonomics page is our virtual assessment tool. To receive a virtual ergonomics assessment personal to your needs, fill out the form and submit it to your manager. From there, your manager will send it to the OHS/EHS team who will schedule a virtual assessment with you.
What if someone I live with, have provided care for, or have spent extensive time with, is suspected of having COVID-19 or has respiratory symptoms and is in self-quarantine? Should I do the same?
You should self-isolate for 14 days and monitor your symptoms if you’ve been in contact with someone who has been suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19. Please inform your manager/supervisor.
I can work virtually, but I don’t have the proper IT equipment to do so. How do I get what I need?
All employees who currently have the ability to work virtually have been encouraged to do so until further notice.
An overview of the tools required to work from home can be found here. This is an excellent resource to make sure you have everything you need to work from home effectively.
If you do not have the tools to work from home, please speak with your manager to put in a request.
Once the request has been approved, you will receive an email from IT inviting you to come to your local office to set-up and bring home your equipment.
Your health and safety are a priority — wellness stations have been set up at the entrance of all Canadian Blood Services facilities with instructions on hand sanitizing and self-screening before interaction with any other individuals.
When you arrive, please ask the front desk to speak with IT field support. For the health and safety of yourself and our IT employees, your interaction will be limited to one member of our IT team and equipment will be taken out of the box in front of you to limit the possible risk of infection. Where possible, we ask that you keep a two-metre distance from other employees.
If you are feeling anxious about coming into your local office to retrieve your equipment, please notify your manager to receive further guidance.
How will employees be informed if a colleague has tested positive for COVID-19?
When we are notified that an employee has tested positive for COVID-19, we immediately stand-up a cross-functional case management team which oversees a number of follow-up steps.
One of those steps is to make all associate directors and directors aware of the case so that they can in-turn inform their teams.
In the spirit of transparency, we share as much information about the case as possible recognizing though that we have an important obligation to protect the privacy of employees regarding their personal health information.
Where isolation of other employees might be required, we adhere to public health guidance.
When will gyms be open at Canadian Blood Services facilities?
We know that employees across the country are frustrated that gyms at Canadian Blood Services continue to be closed.
As we enter what is being called a “second wave” in many provinces, our organization is evaluating our processes to ensure we can continue to safeguard our teams, donors and operations.
The closure of gyms was recently reviewed by the COVID-19 Program, where a difficult decision was made to continue to keep our gyms closed across the country.
This decision was not taken lightly. We understand that physical activity is incredibly important to mental health —which is more important than ever. However, we could not in good conscious open these spaces and increase the risk of putting our teams’ safety in jeopardy.
Due to the fluid and shifting pandemic environment, we are taking a national approach to this decision:
- Gyms at Canadian Blood Services are not set-up to sustain the risks associated with COVID-19.
- Unlike commercial gyms, our infrastructure is not set-up to properly implement the rigorous restrictions required to keep our teams safe. The shared space does not have the ventilation of commercial gyms, and physical distancing cannot be maintained, meaning only a few employees would be able to use the space per day.
- Facilities do not have the capacity to ensure proper cleaning and appointment systems are in place.
- In order to align with public health requirements which, vary across the country, most equipment in the gym space would need to be removed because it cannot be properly disinfected after each use. Meaning employees would not experience the full benefit of the space.
This decision will continue to be evaluated by the COVID-19 Program and updates will be provided to employees as they become available.
We recognize that physical activity is crucial for our mental health. We’ve extended our virtual fitness classes with Goodlife through the winter and are adding additional classes to ensure that employees — in particular our frontline teams — can access this important resource.
We also encourage our teams to take advantage of the other wellness resources available to them, including our employee assistance program (EAP) which includes free therapy sessions with a licensed professional, as well a wide array of video and written LifeSpeak resources available through your employee wellness portal on Connect.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and need a break for physical exercise, we encourage employees to speak with their leaders to build physical activity, such as a break for a walk outside, into your workday.
As part of our ongoing evaluation on gyms, we welcome employees to provide us with their views. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “GYMS.” These comments will be sent to the COVID-19 Program to help inform future decisions on the re-opening of gyms.
Our organization is committed to maintaining agility and flexibility on our approach to gyms as the COVID-19 environment shifts across the country. Our COVID-19 Program team will continue to assess and revisit decisions on gyms, and other related safety measures to protect our teams, donors and operations.
How is convalescent plasma being collected?
We are leveraging the existing skills and experience of our team members who are involved in collecting plasma donations every day.
We have established a convalescent plasma collection program. Convalescent plasma is collected in donor centres across Canada that have the capability to collect by apheresis. These donor centres are located in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, Saint John, Charlottetown and St. John’s.
A team with representatives from our Vancouver-based Blood4Research Facility (formerly known as NetCAD), is working closely with all functional areas and the donor centres to ensure that we are able to supply convalescent plasma while still meeting patient’s needs for blood and blood products.
How are donors recruited?
We have created an online registry where anyone who is interested in participating in the clinical trials can sign up as a potential convalescent plasma donor. Only those who may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma at this time are being contacted.
The team at our Blood4Research Facility in Vancouver, which is part of our Centre for Innovation, is responsible for recruiting, screening and working with the various donors, donor centres and the participating hospitals to ensure convalescent plasma is available to physicians for patient care within the context of the national clinical trials.
Why do we wait to collect convalescent plasma from donors after 28 days for the trials when we collect from donors in our other donation programs who are 14 days symptom free?
Early international research suggests that COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors provided higher levels of antibodies for the virus after 28 days of being symptom free than they did at 14 days because their immune systems had enough time to transition from the stage of infection to a steady state immunity.
Our business continuity management committee (BCMC) is actively investigating the criteria for all donors related to COVID-19. Evidence is reviewed weekly as studies are published. At this time, the evidence continues to support a 14-day symptom-free period for blood, plasma and platelet donors.
As information about the virus is evolving rapidly, we closely monitor international developments to make sure our processes and eligibility criteria align with the best evidence available to protect employees, donors and volunteers.
Why do we wait to collect convalescent plasma from donors after 28 days for the trials when we collect from donors in our other donation programs who are 14 days symptom free?
Recent Federal Drug Agency (FDA) guidelines on the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma recommend that donors who are symptom free for 28 days do not require additional virus testing before donating.
In addition, early international research suggests that COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors provided higher levels of antibodies for the virus after 28 days of being symptom free than they did at 14 days because their immune systems had enough time to transition from the stage of infection to a steady state immunity.
Our business continuity management committee (BCMC) is actively investigating the criteria for all donors related to COVID-19. Evidence is reviewed weekly as studies are published. At this time, the evidence continues to support a 14-day symptom-free period for blood, plasma and platelet donors. As information about the virus is evolving rapidly, we closely monitor international developments to make sure our processes and eligibility criteria align with the best evidence available to protect employees, donors and volunteers.
What about people who have recovered and are retesting as positive for COVID-19? Is it possible that convalescent plasma donors might still be positive for the virus and contagious, but not symptomatic?
Every convalescent plasma donor will be pre-screened by telephone and must meet all eligibility criteria and be symptom free for a minimum of 28 days before their donation appointment is booked. The recovery period for COVID-19 is about 14 days. This time frame has been doubled to 28 days for convalescent plasma donors only to ensure they have higher levels of antibodies for COVID-19 in their plasma and that they have fully recovered from the virus without requiring confirmatory lab testing by public health.
While our understanding of this novel virus continues to grow, the most recent information indicates that, while it is possible to become infected a second time with SARS-CoV-2, it is a rare phenomenon. Many scientists agree that someone who retests as positive for COVID-19 more likely received a false-negative result from their previous test for the virus. A nasopharyngeal swab is used to collect a sample from the very back of the nasal cavity, where it is rotated and wiggled around. This can be difficult for clinicians to perform and uncomfortable for patients, so the swab may not have collected enough genetic material to test positive. In addition, after recovery, a nucleic acid test (NAT) is also sensitive enough to detect pieces of dead virus — which are no longer contagious — lingering in the body after the infection has cleared.
How are convalescent plasma donors pre-screened prior to coming to give plasma?
We are only collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma from donors who have fully recovered from the virus to ensure safety during the pandemic. These donors are no longer infectious; they have immunity, which is why we are collecting their plasma.
Every convalescent plasma donor is pre-screened by telephone to determine their eligibility before their appointment to donate is booked. Pre-screening questions focus on the donor’s experience with COVID-19. This includes, when the donor first noticed symptoms, what type of symptoms they had and when they were confirmed positive for the virus. We also ask about whether the donor required medical intervention during their illness and what that entailed (e.g., were they hospitalized). This information helps us to better understand whether it is safe for the donor to make their donation at this time for the health of employees and volunteers, and also for the donor.
To get to the pre-screening stage, donors must meet the convalescent plasma collection program requirements, which are in addition the plasma donor eligibility criteria that all plasma donors must meet. To qualify for the program, a donor must be younger than 67, have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 by lab test and have since recovered and be symptom free for at least 28 days. At this time we are also focusing on male donors and female donors who have never been pregnant because of the potential risk of transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI) associated with pregnancy.
A minimum waiting period of 28 days since a donor last experienced any symptoms of illness is more stringent than guidelines in place in many other places, including recent FDA guidelines on the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma which only require 14 days. It’s also twice the length of time we require other donors to wait after illness before donating with our blood, plasma or platelet collection programs. Also, early evidence shows that COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors yield higher levels of antibodies for the virus after 28 days as their immune response to the virus continues to mature.
As information about the virus is evolving, we closely monitor international developments to make sure our processes, eligibility criteria and program requirements align with the best evidence available. We also continue to work with public health to protect all employees, volunteers and donors.
Will convalescent donors or staff collecting convalescent plasma require extra PPE?
No, the same measures Canadian Blood Services has implemented for personal protective equipment (PPE) apply to all donor centres, including those where convalescent plasma is collected.
For more information, please visit the COVID-19 updates section on Connect and click on personal protective equipment (PPE).
How many donors will be needed for the clinical trials?
Currently, we estimate approximately 3,000 patients with COVID-19 will be involved in the Health Canada clinical trials we are supporting. Patient enrolment is determined by treating physicians in consultation with their patients and/or their legal guardians. Each adult patient will require approximately 500 mL of convalescent plasma per treatment, and the amount of plasma pediatric patients will need will be based on their weight. Depending on the amount collected per donor and the needs of the patients, we expect we will need to collect between 1,500 and 3,000 convalescent plasma donations over a 12-month period
How do we respond to men who have sex with men who are frustrated that they are unable to participate in the clinical trials as COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors?
Convalescent plasma donors must meet all of Canada’s current plasma donor eligibility criteria to participate. While we continue to work on incremental changes to donor eligibility criteria specific to men who have sex with men, the COVID-19 outbreak has not resulted in immediate change.
However, anyone who is not currently eligible to donate blood for a variety of reasons and who lives in or near the Vancouver area is welcome and encouraged to consider donating blood for research at our Blood4Research Facility, located near the University of British Columbia campus. A number of research projects are underway, and more donors are needed.
In Canada, any change to the donor eligibility criteria that could affect patients must be evidence based and approved by Health Canada, our regulator. In June 2019, with approval from our regulator, we further reduced the blood and plasma donation waiting period in Canada to three months for men who have sex with men.
Also, in partnership with Héma-Québec and with funding from Health Canada, we are supporting research projects that will inform next steps for possible change to the criteria specific to men who have sex with men. More information on the MSM Research Grant Program is publicly available on our website.
We continue to evaluate the latest evidence on COVID-19 and are working closely with provincial and territorial partners, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada, Héma-Québec, and international blood agencies and the World Health Organization to respond appropriately as needed to the evolving pandemic.
Will the appointments needed for convalescent plasma donors impact existing appointment bookings for other donors?
A team with representatives from our Vancouver-based Blood4Research Facility (formerly known as NetCAD), Plasma Operations and Integrated Supply Chain Planning is working with the donor centres to ensure that we are able to supply convalescent plasma while still meeting patient’s needs for blood and blood products.
The team booking appointments for convalescent plasma donors will consider hospital demand for platelets, in particular.
Will samples or units from convalescent plasma donors be kept separate from all other blood samples and units to limit potential risk of exposure to COVID-19?
We will collect and process COVID-19 convalescent plasma using our regular procedures. While we will keep convalescent plasma units separate from the rest of our inventory, this is only to ensure convalescent plasma is issued for the clinical trials, and not for general use.
We will only collect convalescent plasma from donors who meet the current eligibility criteria and who have fully recovered from the virus with no symptoms for at least 28 days.
In addition, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmissible through blood or blood products.
How will our testing labs be impacted?
Samples from COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors will undergo regular donor testing. An additional sample will be collected and will be sent to an external lab to test for neutralizing antibodies to SARS-CoV-2.
How will production labs be impacted?
Convalescent plasma units will be sent to production sites for normal processing. Inventory will be segregated to ensure that it is reserved for hospitals participating in the clinical trials.
The team at our Blood4Research Facility in Vancouver, which is part of our Centre for Innovation, will work with distribution sites to ensure that all convalescent plasma units are shipped to the proper hospitals.
In addition to the collection of convalescent plasma, is Canadian Blood Services planning to lead or participate in other COVID-19 related clinical trials or research related initiatives going forward?
Yes, we are supplying COVID-19 convalescent plasma to three COVID-19 related clinical trials that have been approved by Health Canada: two adult trials — one treating patients in the early stage of COVID-19 infection and one treating patients, who are severely-ill with the virus — as well as a pediatric trial.
In addition, we are working to help hospital and provincial and federal testing laboratories determine which COVID-19 assays perform the best by supplying samples from donors who have recovered from COVID-19.
Some blood products will also be available to researchers through our Blood4Research Program.
If it works, will we be collecting convalescent plasma long term?
The clinical trials need to be completed first, so we have evidence that this therapy actually works. Internationally, researchers are investigating convalescent plasma, along with other available options or trying to develop new ones to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. At this time, it is too early to say what could happen or what our role may be longer term.
Who can I contact if I have further questions?
Employees are asked to connect with their manager or supervisor if they have questions related to the clinical trials.
Should employees have questions that are not addressed through the information that is already available to them on Connect or through their regional leaders, managers and supervisors, they can direct questions to email@example.com for follow up.
Employees are encouraged to visit Connect often as information on all topics related to COVID-19 is updated frequently.