Employee at Leamington cannabis grower tests positive for COVID-19

A third-party employee working at a Tilray subsidiary's cannabis greenhouse in Leamington has tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Tuesday, no other High Park employees in Leamington have tested positive

The employee worked for a third-party agency at Tilray's facility in Leamington. (Ron Ward/Canadian Press)

A third-party employee working at a Tilray subsidiary's cannabis greenhouse in Leamington has tested positive for COVID-19.

According to a spokesperson for High Park Company — a wholly owned subsidiary of Tilray that produces cannabis products and operates a 662,000-square-foot facility in Leamington — the confirmed case was reported on Monday to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU), as well as the province's Ministry of Labour. 

Citing privacy concerns stemming from the person's status as a third-party employee, High Park was unable to comment on the "health status or personal circumstances" of the person in question. 

In addition to sanitizing and cleaning the entire facility, all employees on the same shift who may have come in contact with the affected person have been notified. 

Through contact tracing, the company has identified four people who worked on the same shift, as well as eight additional people who "may have interacted with the positive-tested person in common areas."

These employees have been told to self-isolate at home for 14 days, and have been told to remain in the contact with WECHU and High Park, should they begin to show symptoms of COVID-19. 

"As of [Tuesday], no other workers at our facility are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19," a High Park spokesperson said in an email. "The health unit has advised us to continue to operate with our enhanced health and safety protocols and maintain contact with them in the days ahead."

Leamington greenhouse producer confirms 13 employees have tested positive to date

Tilray isn't the only Leamington greenhouse grower that confirmed COVID-19 cases. 

Lakeside Produce issued a joint statement with WECHU on Tuesday, confirming that 13 employees have tested positive for coronavirus since the beginning of April. Three were migrant workers, while 10 were local workers. 

The three migrant workers contracted COVID-19 from a contract employee in mid-April. According to Lakeside Produce, all cases were mild. 

The company confirmed its first case in an employee on April 1. Since then, 10 of the 13 have recovered. Of the remaining three employees who have yet to recover, two are local employees and one is a migrant worker. 

Safety and protection of our employees continues to remain out top priority ...- Sudeshna Nambiar, COO, Lakeside Produce

According to Lakeside Produce, all cases were "close contacts" of one another. 

"The cases were sporadic in nature and are not linked to any travel rather community-acquired," reads an excerpt from Tuesday's joint statement. 

In the same statement, Lakeside Produce COO Sudeshna Nambiar said her organization created a biosecurity team in 2019 to "combat potential [viruses], whether they be plant or human related."

The team roams the facility with tablets checking in to make sure employees are following appropriate protocol.

The team

Speaking with CBC News, Nambiar said Lakeside Produce is currently restricted entrances into its facility, with temperature checking taking place before employees are allowed to enter. 

Nambiar said employees wear masks as well as face shields, adding that employees aren't allowed to talk while working the line.

"At the line, if you talk, then at that time, you can spit," she said. "That's when the infection can spread."

No migrant workers "got anything from the beginning," according to Nambiar, who said that the illness spread from a local contract worker to a migrant worker. 

"We got out first [migrant worker] infection on April 14," she said. "Our first one was local."

In order to feed the world, we are fiercely determined to take care of our people ...- Sudeshna Nambiar, COO, Lakeside Produce

As for why Lakeside waited until Tuesday to issue a statement, Nambiar said the company was waiting to receive COVID-19 test results, as well as guidance from the region's health unit."

"We were trying to understand when we can release them and what we can [release]," she said. 

As of Tuesday, a total of 732 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex.

According to a WECHU spokesperson, the 13 confirmed cases from Lakeside Produce are part of the more than 700 cases reported across the region to date. 

In late April, Highline Mushrooms confirmed that four migrant workers at the company's Kingsville facility had contracted COVID-19, representing at the time half of the eight greenhouse or farm employees across Windsor-Essex who had tested positive.

Of those four migrant workers, two have recovered from COVID-19, according to Highline Mushrooms president Aaron Hamer.

With files from Dale Molnar and Jason Viau