Health unit working with farms to protect migrant workers amid COVID-19
Published Thursday, April 30, 2020 4:07PM EDT
WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Windsor Essex County Health Unit says it is working closely with farms and health partners to stop the spread of COVID-19 among the “high-risk” population of temporary foreign workers.
Farms and greenhouses across Windsor-Essex employ more than 8,000 seasonal workers. During the latest COVID-19 update on Thursday, Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed confirmed eight migrant workers have tested positive for the virus to date.
“We did have cases of COVID-19 in migrant farm populations in two homes and we worked with these facilities to ensure further spread didn't happen and all those individuals who tested positive for COVID, have been taken care of,” Ahmed said.
The health unit provides regular inspections of bunkhouses, education and collaborates with health and social service partners on a regular basis to support temporary foreign workers, he said.
Erie Shores HealthCare and the health unit have also developed protocols for early assessment, isolation and testing of temporary foreign workers.
Greenhill Produce, a greenhouse in Chatham-Kent, had a major outbreak among migrant workers. Chatham-Kent Public Health confirmed 43 positive cases of the virus on Monday.
“This is a high-risk population,” Ahmed said. “The work environment, their living conditions and everything. It puts them at a higher risk of spreading COVID-19 in that population.”
Public health inspectors and the infectious disease department are in “in regular and constant communication with farm operators to provide education, support and monitoring related to all diseases of public health significance including COVID-19,” WECHU said in a news release.
The federal government announced on March 20 an exception from travel restrictions for temporary foreign workers. The health unit said it has collaborated with the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, local farm operators and the municipalities to ensure those arriving in Canada meet the 14-day self-isolation requirement.
“We want to assure the community that the WECHU is doing our part to protect the workers and the public during this extraordinary time,” Ahmed said.