Windsor-Essex only region in Ontario not allowed to move to Stage 2 of reopening
WINDSOR, ONT. -- Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he needs more help from the farmers to reduce COVID-19 cases in the agri-farm workers in Windsor-Essex before the region can advance to the next stage of reopening.
Ford announced Monday that Windsor-Essex would remian in Stage 1. It is the only region in Ontario that has not yet been allowed to move to Stage 2.
Toronto and Peel Region will be allowed to enter Stage 2 of Ontario's restart phase on Wednesday.
Windsor-Essex, which is experiencing an outbreak among migrant workers, will be held in Stage 1 for at least another week.
“Unfortunately the threat of the virus in Windsor-Essex is still too great,” said Ford. “While we see it improve in Toronto and Peel we haven’t seen it in Windsor-Essex.”
Ford says farmers just aren’t cooperating to get their workers tested, “I love the farmers, but guys you gotta help us here,” he says.
“It’s not fair to all of the people outside of the farming community,” says Ford. “ I feel sorry for them, I really do.”
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens blamed delays by local public health officials for the continuing spread of COVID-19 among farm workers.
"While the local health unit has thus far refused to test the full temporary foreign worker population, this next week presents an opportunity for our local agricultural community to step in where public health officials have failed," he said in a statement.
He is calling on farm operators to have all workers tested this week so the spread of COVID-19 can be assessed and contained.
There are 8,000 temporary foreign workers in the region.
Ontario’s Stage 2 plan allows 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.
On Monday, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex, including 31 in agri-farm workers.
There have been 1,329 confirmed cases in Windsor-Essex, including 784 people who have recovered. Windsor Regional Hospital reported on Monday there are no current in-patients in hospital with confirmed COVID-19.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott Sending says they are sending mobile testing units to farms in Essex County.
“We are asking farmers to allow the mobile assessment units to come on to their properties,” says Elliott.
According to Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton, the province will also collaborate with the federal government on farm inspections of living quarters, beginning this week.
Ford says he wants to reassure Windsor-Essex residents that they will advance to the next stage when possible.
Some Windsor restaurant owners plan to take action since they are not allowed to move to the next stage. Twisted Apron owner Katie Robinson says those actions could include not obeying the province’s orders and protesting.
On June 8, Ford announced a regional approach to the Stage of reopening Ontario. Windsor-Essex has been excluded from advancing in the first two announcements. Chatham-Kent moved to Stage 2 on June 12.
With files from CTVNewsToronto.ca.