No Stage 2 commitments from health minister after ‘substantive’ conversation with Windsor mayor
Windsor city hall in Windsor, Ont., on March 25, 2020. (Rich Garton / CTV Windsor)
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A conversation between Windsor’s mayor and the Ontario health minister is being described as “substantive” but, ended with no promise of new COVID-19 testing measures to help the region move to the second phase of the province’s reopening plan.
On Friday afternoon, Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens and health minister Christine Elliott discussed the need to address the outbreak of the novel coronavirus among the migrant worker population in Essex County.
The high number of foreign workers contracting the virus while working on area farms and at greenhouses has prevented Windsor-Essex from achieving Stage 2 status as part of the government’s rollback of COVID-related lockdown measures.
“Minister Elliott confirmed the Ontario government is committed to supporting the agricultural sector to deal with this exceptional challenge and repeated Premier [Doug] Ford’s urging that farm owners/operators need to participate to a greater extent as part of the solution,” reads a statement from the mayor’s chief of staff, Andrew Teliszewsky.
The city has offered assistance through its Isolation and Recovery Centre, offering 40 rooms for migrant workers to self-isolate.
Teliszewsky calls the conversation between the mayor and the minister as “substantive” while also outlining no final decisions have been made regarding “next steps.”
According to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, there are currently eight COVID-19 outbreaks within the agriculture sector in Kingsville and Leamington.
Of 19 new cases reported on Friday, 17 of those positive results are tied to workers in the agri-food sector.
In an effort to increase testing across the region, Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers (OGVG) announced Friday it is partnering with Essex County leaders to develop a response plan.
This includes enhancing workplace prevention measures, strict enforcement of public health regulations, and promoting access to testing for all employees by providing culturally appropriate information.
“Now more than ever it is critical our leaders work together so we, as a region, can address this complicated issue,” Warden of Essex County Gary McNamara said in a news release. “As we roll out wide-scale testing, we need to be ready to respond with isolation facilities and financial, medical and mental health supports for all agri-food employees. This only happens if we work together.”
OGVG said it has also advised members to discuss the importance of testing with workers, and is providing tools to reduce any fears and stigma associated.
Ontario’s Stage 2 plan would allow personal care services like barber shops, hair salons and day spas to reopen with new safety protocols. Other businesses like restaurants and bars would also be allowed to open for outdoor dining.
Windsor-Essex along with Toronto and the Peel region remain in Stage 1 of the reopening plan.