CBC Windsor June 19 COVID-19 update: Mandatory mask policy starting next week

Here's what you need to know about COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex on Friday, June 19.

Anyone attending a commercial business must be wearing a mask, says health unit

Starting next week, customers of commercial establishments must wear a cloth mask when entering the business, according to a new policy from the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit announced a mandatory mask policy for every commercial establishment in our region, starting next week.

Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said this should give businesses enough time to enact policies to ensure customers are complying. 

"It would be the business establishment setting up these recommendations for everyone and we will be working with them on specific language," said Ahmed, though people will be required to bring and wear their own masks and it is not up to the business to provide them.

The health unit previously made the recommendation that people wear cloth masks while in public spaces, especially where physical distancing is difficult to do. Ahmed said it's another step people can take in Windsor-Essex to protect themselves, as the region prepares to enter the second stage of reopening.

The health unit will provide more details about the policy on Monday. 

There are 19 new cases of COVID-19 in our region Friday, with 17 of those new cases in workers in the agri-farm sector. 

Windsor-Essex has the fourth highest rate of the disease in the province and currently has a higher rate than the provincial average.

Windsor-Essex has the fourth highest rate of COVID-19 among regions in Ontario. (Windsor Essex County Health Unit)

Overall, there have been 1,263 cases of the disease in Windsor-Essex and 730 of those cases are now resolved. 

On Thursday, the health unit reported there have now been 365 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among workers in the agri-farm industry. About 195 of those cases have been resolved.

On Friday evening, Windsor Regional Hospital issued a media release informing the public that a 23rd patient had died as a result of COVID-19 at one of the hospital's facilities. 

According to Windsor Regional Hospital, the 23 deaths means a death rate of approximately 22 per cent in hospitalized patients. 

As a result of the death at the hospital Met campus, there are currently no confirmed COVID-19-positive cases at either of the hospital's two campuses. However, there are 54 patients currently in hospital suspected of having COVID-19 and awaiting test results. 

WATCH | The health unit's COVID-19 summary for June 19:

There are outbreaks at eight workplaces in the agricultural sector, with three are in Kingsville and five in Leamington.

Two long-term care homes — Country Village Homes in Woodslee and Village of Aspen Lake in Windsor — are currently under a COVID-19 outbreak. One staff member has tested positive at each facility. 

Windsor-Essex waits for Stage 2 of reopening

Windsor-Essex is one of only a few regions across Ontario that will not be allowed to move into Stage 2 of reopening today. The province has determined the case numbers need to be lower in the region. Over the last few weeks, the main source of new COVID-19 cases has been in migrant farm workers.

Windsor-Essex will find out more about reopening on Monday, when Premier Doug Ford will provide another update. 

Meanwhile, Sarnia-Lambton is entering a new phase of reopening today after being cleared on Monday by the province. 

Chatham-Kent has already been at Stage 2 for a week. The medical officer of health there decided to maintain closures of public pools and splash pads, even though the province is allowing for them to open.

But in Sarnia-Lambton, the medical officer Dr. Sudit Ranade, is taking a more lenient approach.

"Right now, I don't think I'm planning on doing anything more strict than we're going to have," he said. "I think it'll be dependent upon the evidence that comes out from the next few weeks."

Ranade said he'll be watching for any indications of a spread from public places.

"Certainly I think people have been cooped up for a very long time, so let's let them get a little bit of normal back into their lives," he said. 

Health minister speaks with local officials

On Thursday, Health Minister Patty Hajdu spoke with the health unit, local mayors, and other officials in a closed-door meeting about the issue. A representative from the mayor's office said the minister called the outbreak in Canada's agricultural sector a crisis. 

Medical officer of health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, said he spoke about the need for a short-term and long-term plan when it comes to the accommodations temporary foreign workers stay in. Federal law requires employers to provide housing for these workers. Ahmed said the shared accommodations have been a key factor for the spread of the virus. 

Ahmed said Hajdu promised to involve key ministries and keep the discussions moving forward. 

Long wait times at COVID-19 testing centres

Following a provincial government mandate that those visiting long-term care homes must be tested for COVID-19, assessment centres in our area have seen an increase in volume. 

But testing centres weren't prepared for the announcement on such short notice, said Karen Riddell, vice president for critical care cardiology, stroke, trauma and clinical support services at Windsor Regional Hospital.

"After months of not being able to visit their loved ones in long-term care, rest and retirement homes, there has been a rush to our testing centres across Windsor-Essex," she said, adding that people have had to wait two hours to get tested.

"I know both Erie Shores and Windsor Regional Hospital testing centres have seen almost double the volumes that they normally would over the last few days since that announcement came through."

Testing is available at two assessment centres in Windsor-Essex.

The assessment centre at the Ouellette campus of Windsor Regional Hospital, next to the Emergency Department, is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The assessment centre at Erie Shores HealthCare is open from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

COVID-19 in Sarnia-Lambton

Lambton Public Health reported 281 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the region. Overall, there have been 25 deaths. 

Another 240 people have recovered.

Bluewater Health is under an outbreak after three staff members tested positive for the disease. 

An outbreak at Vision Nursing Home in Sarnia continues with 26 residents testing positive for the disease and 28 staff members.

To date, 10 people residing at Vision Nursing Home have died due to COVID-19.

COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent

Chatham-Kent's health unit reported 156 total cases of COVID-19 for the region.

An outbreak at Greenhill Produce is now over.

There were 103 workers at the facility who had tested positive for COVID-19. The outbreak was investigated at the end of April, when about 40 cases of the disease were discovered among workers at the greenhouse operation. 

In Chatham-Kent, one person has died due to COVID-19 and 147 people have recovered. 

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