Emergency Management Ontario deployed to Windsor-Essex
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A team from Emergency Management Ontario has been deployed to Essex County to help provide leadership in response to the evolving COVID-19 crisis in the local agri-food sector.
CTV News has learned the team is helping coordinate with Red Cross and local officials to isolate and care for temporary foreign workers who have tested positive for COVID-19.
“The EMO is helping coordinate to make sure the workers have the best care, the best housing, the best accommodation, food and support, both from a psychosocial point of view and a physical point of view,” Dr. Dick Huyer, Ontario’s chief coroner said during Friday’s media briefing. “Really to make sure they’re safe and healthy through the two-week period of time while they’re hopefully not becoming affected or symptomatic from COVID-19.”
This, after nearly 700 cases have been identified in the population of Essex County agri-food workers since the beginning of the pandemic. Most recently, 191 workers tested positive at a single farm. While the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit isn’t identifying the specific farm, workers have told the United Food and Commercial Workers union that the affected farm operation is Nature Fresh Farms, one of Leamington’s biggest greenhouse growers.
Affected workers were ordered into isolation by the health unit on July 1, until further direction from the healthy authority. CTV News has learned the Emergency Management Team arrived in the region Wednesday.
“The conversation and partnership is ongoing to ensure that we have all these accommodations secured and I keep these individuals isolated from the rest of the population to prevent any risk of spread in the community,” said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the chief medical officer of health for the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
Ahmed was very adamant during his Friday media briefing that the health unit did not “shut down” the farm but is also not allowing contract workers to back-fill the pool of workers currently off the job.
“We are all working together for the same cause, for the safety and well-being of the workers and also safely limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the population,” Ahmed said.
“The poor folks in Kingsville, Leamington, we’re doing everything we can to get through this,” said Premier Doug Ford Friday, when asked about EMO’s presence in the region. “We’ve had hurdles in the past before, we all stick together, we all continue communicating, we all work together and we’ll get through it.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens confirms two Windsor hotels are currently being used to isolate workers who tested negative for COVID-19 to help keep them separate.
“They’re here now and we’re hopeful they’ll be able to act as a coordinating role and be able to take charge of the situation and make sure those who are identified as COVID-19 positive or negative they they’re assigned to the right place to recover, isolate and get well,” said Dilkens.
Meetings are ongoing between the management team and municipal officials.
Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers say they have been working with multiple levels of government to ensure there exists sufficient local resources to respond to the outcomes of the targeted testing campaign.
“Establishing housing options for agri-food employees who need to isolate is a critical component of the response strategy and we are pleased to see the province has committed significant resources to solving this complicated issue,” says Dr. Justine Taylor, Science and Government Relations Manager.