Province to send more resources to combat COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex agri-food sector
WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Ontario government is committing more resources from multiple ministries in the ongoing struggle to test and isolate agri-food workers in Windsor-Essex.
Mayor Drew Dilkens says Agriculture minister Ernie Hardeman confirmed Monday that the province will be sending people from the ministries of labour, agriculture and health to help lead the local COVID-19 effort.
“There’s no coordination back into the provincial government at a leadership role,” says Mayor Dilkens. “So that is going to change, I’m hopeful it will change with the new announcement.”
Two weeks ago, mayors from across Essex County put out a call for more resources from the province to manage the COVID-19 outbreak on area farms.
There have been 939 COVID-19 cases reported to date in the agri-food sector. According to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, close to 200 workers are currently in isolation, there are outbreaks at six agriculture workplaces and two workers have died.
Area mayors fear those numbers will hold the region back — while the rest of the province moves forward.
“We want to make sure our region doesn’t get held back from moving to Stage 3 at the right time,” Dilkens says.
That comes as testing efforts appear to have stalled.
During his daily media briefing Tuesday, Premier Doug Ford said 19 of the 176 area farms have participated in testing — with more than 3,000 tests administered. But numbers are only marginally higher than what was reported a few weeks ago.
“We’re going to continue testing on as many farms as possible,” says Premier Ford. “We’re going to continue testing every single day.”
The Premier is also pledging more resources.
“We have emergency team from Sunnybrook called EMAT and they’re down there as well so it’s all hands on deck,” he says.
Kingsville Mayor Nelson Santos is encouraged by the extra assistance and says plans are in the works to temporarily re-open the agri-food assessment centre in Leamington.
“We’re looking at basically reorganizing an opportunity to bring in two full days of testing there with up to 500 tests a day at the assessment centre this coming week,” Santos says.
Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald says she will speak with the minister of agriculture on Friday, where she’ll repeat her request to have workers tested as a condition of employment.