Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Tips

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Preventing Stigma

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Protecting Yourself and Others

  • Continue to follow all safe work procedures. If it is unsafe to work, talk to your supervisor, health and safety committee or representative, and/or union.
  • Practice physical distancing by maintaining the greatest distance possible from people that are not from your household (minimum 2 metres).
  • Follow Public Health Agency of Canada’s guidance.
  • Stay home if you are sick or might be sick, even if symptoms are mild. Unsure if you have COVID-19? Take a self-assessment.
  • Educate employees about COVID-19 signs, symptoms, and transmission prevention.

Social Stigma and Microaggression

Stigma occurs when people associate a risk with specific people, places, or things, such as a minority population group. Stigmatization is common in disease outbreaks. Groups that may be experiencing stigma during the COVID-19 pandemic include:

  • Travellers (for essential or non-essential reasons)
  • Certain racial and ethnic minority groups, including people of Asian, African or Latin- Americans descent
  • People who are or were in a COVID-19 quarantine or isolation, tested positive for COVID-19, were sick or have recovered from being sick with COVID-19
  • People who are or were closely associated with COVID-19 positive individuals
  • Emergency responders or healthcare professionals
  • Other frontline workers, such as grocery store clerks, delivery drivers, or farm and food processing plant workers
  • People who live with disabilities or developmental or behavioral disorders that cause them to have difficulty following health recommendations
  • People who cough frequently due to underlying health conditions
  • People living in congregate (group) settings, such as people experiencing homelessness

Microaggressions are everyday verbal, non-verbal, and environmental snubs or insults that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages. These messages target persons based on the group the other person perceives them to belong to. Individuals who may be experiencing microaggressions during the COVID-19 pandemic include those listed above and individuals perceived to be ignoring or downplaying public health advice.

The language we use can reinforce false assumptions and harm individuals’ well-being. Be mindful and use factual language when referring to the virus and people who have or may have it.

Workplace Violence and Harassment Policies

During the stress of a pandemic, the risk of violence or harassment toward certain individuals, those working alone or people performing critical tasks (e.g., providing care or other services to the public, working with vulnerable individuals, etc.) may be greater.

Employers are encouraged to establish or review risk assessments and policies on violence and harassment prevention in the workplace. Employees who are experiencing or have witnessed harassment or violence are asked to report the circumstances to their employer or supervisor as soon as possible.


Everyone has a role to play in preventing microaggression and social stigma related to COVID-19. Employers can provide information from reliable sources about virus transmission and steps that workers can take to protect themselves and their families. Display posters or send email updates to staff.

Know the facts:

  • Diseases (including COVID-19) can make anyone sick, regardless of their race or ethnicity.
  • Someone who has completed quarantine or has been released from isolation is not a source of infection to other people.
  • Understand the risks of getting COVID-19 and ways to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
  • Studies show that older adults, people of any age with chronic medical conditions or who are immunocompromised, and those living with obesity are at risk for more severe disease and outcomes from COVID-19. Inform employees about these factors so they can make informed decisions.
  • Know the symptoms and monitor your health.

Supporting Someone with COVID-19 Symptoms, or who is in Quarantine or Self-Isolation

  • Be a part of the solution. Correct misinformation, challenge myths, and show empathy
  • Keep in regular contact with the individual.
  • Acknowledge the impact on the team, productivity, and morale.
  • Address team or individual fears and concerns.
  • Offer to support them or their caregivers:
    • Maintain social contact through phone calls, video chats, etc.
    • Arrange for food or essential supplies to be delivered to them.

Coping with Social Isolation, Microaggression or Stigma

It is important that mental health resources and support are provided to all workers, including access to an employee assistance program, if available.

For further information on COVID-19, refer to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Note that this guidance is just some of the adjustments organizations can make during a pandemic. Adapt this list by adding your own good practices and policies to meet your organization’s specific needs.

Disclaimer: As public and occupational health and safety information is changing rapidly, local public health authorities should be consulted for specific, regional guidance. This information is not intended to replace medical advice or legislated health and safety obligations. Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.

Document last updated March 25, 2021