CBC Windsor July 1 COVID-19 update: Health unit shutters agri-farm following weekend spike of COVID-19

Employees at an agricultural farm in Essex County are being prohibited from working and required to isolate after 191 new cases of COVID-19 were found there over the weekend, the health unit says.

191 cases were reported at the farm, but its exact location is unknown

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Employees at an agricultural farm in Essex County are being prohibited from working and required to isolate after 191 new cases of COVID-19 were found there over the weekend.

The order was issued on Wednesday by Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed. It's not clear if the farm is in Leamington or Kingsville, as the health unit continues not to name specific farms experiencing outbreaks.

"The order requires the owner/operator of the farm to ensure the isolation of workers and prohibits them from working until further direction," Ahmed said in a media release Wednesday.

He added that the 191 new cases represent approximately "one quarter of the total cases among farm workers in the region since March."

In an email to CBC News, WECHU spokesperson Eric Nadalin confirmed the new order "applies to all workers, not just those who are confirmed positive cases of COVID-19."

Justice for Migrant Workers' Chris Ramsaroop says the health unit's new order doesn't go far enough. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

The health unit's order comes approximately one week after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a three-point plan to better support the province's agri-farm workers, which includes a provision allowing positive asymptomatic workers to continue working outdoors in isolation.

Chris Ramsaroop, an organizer for the Justice for Migrant Workers advocacy group, told CBC News he doesn't believe the health unit's new order goes far enough.

"Justice for Migrant Workers believes that all farms within the area should be shut down to [curb the] spread of the pandemic," Ramsaroop said. "We believe that this is a band-aid on a gushing wound."

"If we want to get to the root causes of the spread of the pandemic, shut all the farms down and ensure there's enough time for safety measures and sanitation to take place and pay the workers their full wages."

Nine new cases reported Wednesday

In a separate media release, the health unit said Wednesday that there are nine new cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex. Seven of those nine cases are from the agri-farm sector. Of the remaining two, one is a health-care worker and the other is community-based.

To date, WECHU has confirmed 1,611 cases of COVID-19 across Windsor-Essex. Sixty-eight people have died after contracting COVID-19 and 893 cases have been resolved. 

Windsor-Essex's epidemic curve as of July 1, 2020 (Windsor-Essex County Health Unit)

There are currently two seniors' residence under a COVID-19 outbreak: the Devonshire Seniors Residence retirement home and the Extendicare Tecumseh long-term care home. 

Four workplaces currently have two or more cases of COVID-19. 

Kingsville fire chief says pandemic highlights issues in migrant worker housing

Kingsville fire Chief Chuck Parsons said if there is a "positive" from the pandemic, it's that it has exposed the issue of congregate living in the region and identified gaps in the inspection system that is used to approve housing for migrant workers. 

"If there's anything positive that came out of COVID, it … brought to light that congregate living is a situation that we have down here and a situation that we need to keep the workers safe," said Parsons, who's been doing migrant housing inspections for 19 years. 

Data compiled by CBC News show that more than 670 have tested positive across farms in Windsor-Essex, Ont.

COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton

As of June 30, there have been 258 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Sarnia-Lambton residents. Twenty-five people have died after contracting COVID-19, while 257 cases have been resolved. 

There's currently one ongoing outbreak in the region. 

COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent

As of June 30, there have been a total of 158 confirmed COVID-19 cases among Chatham-Kent residents. Two people are currently self-isolating. 

One person has died to date, while 155 cases have been resolved. 

There are currently no outbreaks at any facilities in the region. 


  • A previous version of this story indicated that all agri-farms in Essex County had been ordered by the health unit to move all workers who had tested positive for COVID-19 into isolation. However, the order actually states that it only applies to one farm which saw 191 new cases of COVID-19 over the weekend.
    Jul 01, 2020 12:45 PM ET

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