'Stigma associated' with getting a test, low turnout for voluntary migrant worker COVID-19 testing
WINDSOR, ONT. -- A testing centre that was set up for testing migrant workers in the Windsor area will be shutting down Thursday.
The centre has been operating since June 9 at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington in an effort to assess the effect of COVID-19 on the migrant worker community in the region.
Since then more than 750 workers have been tested but Erie Shores HealthCare says decreasing demand in recent days means that the centre will no longer be needed.
“I think there’s still a stigma associated with coming to get tested,” said Myriam Soto with the migrant worker community program. “Some people think that by coming here, the virus is in the air and they’re going to get infected.”
While roughly 750 workers were tested the goal was to test nearly 8,000 in less than two weeks according to Erie Shores HealthCare.
“We had to take a look at the volumes coming in here and the volumes were obviously not where we’d like them to be,” says Armand Bumanlag, communication director with Erie Shore HealthCare.
On Wednesday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 14 new cases of COVID-19 in the region.
Of those new cases, six are in workers in the agri-farm sector.
“This initiative expanded access to COVID testing to workers within the agri-food sector, doing what we could to break down some of the barriers to testing that previously existed,” said Dr. Ross Moncur Interim CEO of Erie Shores HealthCare in a statement.
Testing and assessment will continue on a written referral basis, while COVID-19 assessment centres at Windsor Regional Hospital and Erie Shore HealthCare in Leamington remain open.
During the nine days of operation, teams also provided 85 health check-ups to individuals who presented with symptoms and distributed more than 800 Worker HealthAid cards to workers to help expedite care in emergency rooms.
Essex MPP Taras Natyshak says they also have to review the assessment centre in Leamington.
“The barriers that exist that would prohibit migrant workers from accessing the resources there,” says Natyshak.
Both Natyshak and Ontario Premier Doug Ford say it’s not the workers fault.
Ford says it has to be voluntary.
“I just can’t force people to get tested, I just can’t do it. So we’re asking for cooperation,” says Ford.
If more federal or provincial directives are ordered they said they would consider reopening the centre for further testing.
With files from CTV Windsor's Rich Garton.