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:
- Do you have any updates you can share on the diversity, equity and inclusion employee survey from the summer?
- For those of us working from home having internet before the pandemic was nice to have but not a "need". Now that we need it for work, is there a plan to help with the costs associated with having internet at home?
- Managers/supervisors/non-union staff have been encouraged to use vacation entitlement in the current fiscal year and to book vacation by end of Sept/20. Will this also apply to the union contract staff?
- With the number of positive COVID-19 cases increasing over the course of the week, what is Canadian Blood Services plan to deal with the "second wave" of COVID-19?
- Before the pandemic, I was picking up extra shifts for my colleagues. Now, I am being told that my hours are being reduced to “normal” and that I will no longer receive pandemic pay reflective of those additional hours. Since I don’t have the opportunity to pick up extra shifts, why are you taking away the pandemic top-up when I need it the most?
- Is there a way that the gyms available at CBS can be used in line with the provincial standards for gyms being open?
- With kids heading back-to-school, and the number of COVID-19 cases rising across the country, how is Canadian Blood Services supporting employees, while at the same time being able to sustain our operations?
- If an employee decides to travel and must quarantine upon return, are they eligible for quarantine leave pay?
- Is there any information to share on the meetings Graham had with the Health Minister in Alberta?
- With the increasing number of people losing their jobs due to pandemic related economic decline, there's understandable concern about how our organization is approaching layoffs; would options such as reducing pay, deferral of bonuses, etc be considered?
- For those of us who may be deemed "operationally required" to work in the donor centres and/or offices in Phase 1 but don't feel safe coming back to the office, how will our concerns be managed?
- I read an article about the importance of getting a flu shot this year not only for personal protection but also to minimize the potential impacts of flu related illness on the healthcare system. I’m wondering if we should be looking to get our flu shots independently or will CBS try to organize flu shot clinics or work with a provider to identify available clinics?
- We are becoming exhausted here on the front lines with everything going on in our world. Working in masks eight hours a day is not easy. With the national blood supply so high...is there any thought to reducing our targets?
- Will a T2200 form be provided for tax purposes? As it would allow employees to claim a portion of the cost for internet, hydro, etc..
What employees need to know: Your digest
September 25, 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.
Here is the latest.
Our diversity, equity and inclusion survey results are in:
As you know, we engaged Feminuity to conduct an employee diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) assessment in July. The assessment was completed by 62 per cent of employees and there were 45 voluntary interviews conducted by Feminuity. Thank you to everyone who participated. Findings from that assessment are now available on our DEI resource page.
We learned that while employees are deeply engaged in our mission and purpose, there is work to be done to nurture a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization where all employees feel like they belong. The results also showed that employees advocating for change expressed an urgent need for: more psychological safety, more equitable and transparent processes in the organization, strong and sustained action around DEI issues, DEI education for the entire organization and DEI in leadership.
We have work to do. Learn more on Connect about how we are using this data to identify opportunities for deeper discussions.
Updates to donor mask requirements: As our knowledge of COVID-19 evolves, it is necessary that we continue to protect our essential operations and limit the risk of community spread. Effective Monday Sept. 28, donors will not be permitted to wear masks with valves or gaiter/buff-style masks in Canadian Blood Services sites. We are doing so with an abundance of caution to continue to protect the health and safety of our teams, volunteers and donors. This decision is aligned with recent guidance from public health, consistent with our requirements for our employees, reduces the possibility of contamination, and allows us to better assess impact of cases of individuals who test positive for COVID-19 who have been in our sites. Learn more about how this affects our collections teams and donors on your COVID-19 employee portal.
Working together to educate children about organ donation: If you ask anyone working in the organ and tissue donation and transplantation (OTDT) community what they feel is the biggest obstacle in their field, they might say it’s the lack of education and awareness. According to medical leaders and teachers, this gap can be seen from the classroom to the hospital. Three professionals are working hard to evolve the current educational resources to be more accessible and inclusive and ultimately change the way Canadian kids learn about organ and tissue donation. Learn more on blood.ca/stories.
New Reasons TV campaign: Starting next week, don’t be surprised if you start to see us pop up in-between your favourite TV shows. On Monday, we will be launching our Reasons television ads to support and recruit new blood donors. Running until November, the ads will build upon our 2019 campaign, showing heartfelt “reasons” why individuals are motivated to become blood donors. Check out these inspiring ads on our YouTube channel, and share them with your network so we can continue to deliver on our vision to help every patient, match every need and serve every Canadian.
Donated plasma saves Ottawa man’s life: Life changed in a flash for Mike Jones, a truck driver and self-described outdoors guy. When he woke up one morning in 2019, Mike could no longer feel his hands or legs. An ambulance rushed Mike to hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with a severe case of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a rare autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack nerve cells. One of the only effective treatments for GBS is immune globulin and Mike’s condition began to improve after a second dose. More than four months after the initial attack, he was finally able to walk out of the hospital. Two years later, he continues to work on his recovery at home. Read more on blood.ca/stories.
Question of the day: Will Canadian Blood Services be issuing T2200’s at tax time?
The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has provided a draft response to the issuance of T2200’s for the 2020 calendar year. The CRA is proposing to revise the standard T2200 form, into a simplified version specific to claiming expenses related to working from home during the pandemic.
Canadian Blood Services is taking the proactive approach by starting work on implementing a solution to ensure a mechanism is in place for next year’s tax season.
The CRA’s proposal for addressing working from home during the pandemic is subject to change as they have been made aware of the large administrative burden this will have for employers across the country.
As additional information is released, we will be sure to provide updates to employees.
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.
Masks are mandatory for all employees and volunteers working in donor centres and those unable to maintain two-metre distancing where there is prolonged contact and no physical barrier is in place in all other Canadian Blood Services facilities.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
Q&A: Convalescent Plasma
What is our role in the national clinical trial of convalescent plasma?
We are proud to be part of Health Canada approved clinical trials to test the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma as a possible treatment option for patients with the virus. We announced our involvement in the clinical trials in April 2020.
As the national blood operator, we have the expertise and the infrastructure necessary to safely collect, prepare and distribute convalescent plasma. We have established a convalescent plasma collection program. Initially, the program is focused on meeting the needs of patients with COVID-19 in Canada in the context of the clinical trials and under the authorization of Health Canada. Scientists from our Centre for Innovation are part of a group of clinical investigators that is conducting the national clinical trials. At the moment, this group includes 11 research teams and more than 50 hospitals. And we anticipate more hospitals will become involved.
With Health Canada’s approval of our clinical trial application, we began collecting plasma from recovered COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors at the end of April 2020 and expect that the clinical trials will run for 12 months.
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.
With Health Canada’s approval of our clinical trial application, we have established a convalescent plasma collection program. Convalescent plasma collections started at our Vancouver and Toronto donor centres the week of April 27, and the program has now grown to include other 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), 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.
How will donors be 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. We are now contacting registrants, as needed. Only those who may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma will be 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 trial.
What are the eligibility criteria for convalescent plasma donors?
In addition to meeting Canada’s plasma donor eligibility criteria, convalescent plasma donors will also need to meet additional requirements specific to our convalescent plasma collection program.
To participate, convalescent plasma donors must be:
- Younger than 67 years old;
- Previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test; and
- Fully recovered from the virus and symptom free for at least 28 days.
Why does a convalescent plasma donor need to be younger than 67?
This age limit is consistent with current plasma donor eligibility criteria in Canada for first-time plasma donors who have not donated blood before.
Can someone who hasn’t had COVID-19 still donate?
Not for these clinical trials. Convalescent plasma is plasma that is collected from someone who has recovered from a virus, which means they have developed the antibodies necessary to fight off that virus. These antibodies could be the key ingredient for a treatment to help others with the same virus. This is why only people who have been confirmed positive for COVID-19 and therefore have developed the antibodies needed to fight it, can donate as part of the clinical trial.
Why do we wait to collect convalescent plasma from donors after 28 days for the trial 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.
How are we determining that a convalescent plasma donor is fully recovered?
Every convalescent plasma donor will be pre-screened by telephone to determine their eligibility before their appointment to donate is booked.
To donate, a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor must be symptom free for at least 28 days. This aligns with recent FDA guidelines on the collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma. Also, early evidence shows that COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors yield higher levels of antibodies for the virus after 28 days.
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, many scientists agree that someone who retests as positive for COVID-19 actually 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.
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 trial?
Approximately 1,400 patients with COVID-19 will be involved in the trial, as determined by the treating physicians in consultation with the 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 700 and 1,400 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.
Is collecting convalescent plasma in Canadian Blood Services’ donor centres safe?
To ensure safety during the pandemic, we will only collect COVID-19 convalescent plasma from donors who have fully recovered from the virus.
To ensure transfusion medicine safety, convalescent plasma donors must also meet Canada’s current plasma donor eligibility criteria.
The current program requirements for convalescent plasma donors involved in CONCOR are aligned with that of others internationally, including the guidelines released by AABB, the FDA and the International Society of Blood Transfusion.
We will continue working with public health to protect all employees, donors and volunteers.
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 trial, 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 trial.
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.
When will the trial begin?
With Health Canada’s approval of our national clinical trial application, we started to book appointments for convalescent plasma donors at the end of April 2020.
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 recently 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.
We also hope to supply some blood products to researchers through our Blood4Research Program.
What do you hope to achieve with the trial?
Currently, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove whether COVID-19 convalescent plasma is a safe and effective treatment for patients with the virus, which is why it is not widely available in Canada.
Well-designed clinical trials, like the ones we are involved with, will help provide the information necessary to prove whether convalescent plasma is a safe and effective treatment. The results from the clinical trials will inform future decisions on the wider availability of convalescent plasma. It will be an important contribution to research on a global scale that could help patients in Canada and around the world.
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.