WINDSOR, ONT. -- The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit is looking to hire about 22 more staff members to tackle COVID-19 and ease an exhaustive workload.

The health unit says the region has the second-highest rate of infection per capita in the province.

“The Ministry of Health clearly understands the strain on public health units at this time,” says health unit CEO Theresa Marentette.

More than a dozen programs have been put on hold, so more resources can be redirected to the pandemic.

“COVID is still in our community, as I report the numbers every day and without a vaccine that will continue to be a stress on our community,” says Marentette.

Things like testing and inspecting 44 long-term care or retirement homes and 900 bunk houses, have inundated staff to the point the province had resources from Chatham-Kent and London-Middlesex diverted to help.

Officials say they need to create a COVID-19 task force to help them get back to every day services, while adapting the new reality.

“Unfortunately for us, or fortunately for others this is foodland Ontario. We feed not only our community but we feed the province and the country and we certainly are very thankful for your help here,” says WECHU board chair Gary McNamara.

On Thursday, the health board heard a request for 22 new full time jobs, to be filled in September, with positions ranging from a new associate medical officer of health, to new public health inspectors and Registered Practical Nurses.

“I think our staff has really did an amazing job in stepping up to meet the needs of the community, but we recognize that despite all that work there’s still other activities, there’s still other work that is needed,” says Dr. Wajid Ahmed, WECHU medical officer of health.

The local cost is over $857,000 but could be reduced to $257,000 if the Ministry of Health chips in.

“If the province doesn’t fund the entirety then it would have the implications would fall back onto the obligated municipalities,” says Marentette.