Windsor

Migrant worker isolation centre opens at Windsor Holiday Inn

A second isolation centre for migrant workers exposed to COVID-19 has opened in Windsor-Essex at a Holiday Inn hotel. 

This is the 2nd migrant worker isolation centre in Windsor-Essex

A Holiday Inn hotel in Windsor opened Tuesday as the region's second isolation centre for migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19 or been in contact with a positive case. (Jason Viau/CBC)

A second isolation site for migrant workers exposed to COVID-19 has opened in Windsor-Essex at a Holiday Inn hotel.

In addition to the Best Western in Leamington that started isolating migrant workers a few weeks ago, CBC News learned Wednesday afternoon that a Holiday Inn in Windsor is now also being used as an isolation centre. The general manager for the hotel at Huron Church Road confirmed the location for CBC News. 

The hotel started accepting workers who tested positive themselves or had been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday, according to Leianne Musselman, communications director for the Canadian Red Cross.

The Canadian Red Cross is overseeing both isolation centres, which have a total of 140 workers, and the agency is also managing the overall care of the workers in isolation, Musselman said.

Musselman added that the Red Cross has been in Windsor-Essex for a few weeks and is supplying personal items, meal delivery and psychosocial support for workers in isolation.

Canadian Red Cross communications director Leianne Musselman said they have staff on site and off site of the centres supporting the needs of migrant workers. (Jason Viau/CBC)

Workers have also been given the number of a hotline workers can call that connects them to a Red Cross member who can listen to their concerns and address any outstanding needs.

"This is an evolving situation, everyday something is different and things are changing," Musselman said. "The Red Cross is there and ready to support and expected to continue to support for as long as we're needed there."

Musselman also addressed photos circulating on social media that appear to show small food portions and culturally inappropriate food allegedly left in takeout boxes for the workers.

Musselman said while she is aware of the photos, she doesn't know when or where they were taken and if they are of food provided to migrant workers under the care of the Canadian Red Cross.

She did say, however,  there is a chef on site who is ensuring the needs of the migrant workers are met.

According to a Red Cross spokesperson, there are 40 employees on site and another 30 off site supporting the isolation centres.

Leamington mayor wants testing as condition of employment

The number of farms that have undergone on-site testing hasn't changed in over two weeks.

As of July 6, 19 of roughly 176 farms had completed on-site testing, according to Ontario Health. Five more farms were scheduled to complete on-site testing, but Ontario Health has not confirmed whether these new tests have happened. 

Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald wants COVID-19 testing to be a condition of employment for migrant workers. (Jason Viau/CBC)

The lack of testing has prompted Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald to renew her calls to make testing mandatory, as a condition of the farm workers' employment.

"To me this condition of employment is drastic, but we're forced into this," she said. "I don't know what else to do."

On Monday, MacDonald said she sent a letter via email to premier Doug Ford, Ontario's Agriculture Minister and Minister of Health that asks them to consider making testing a requirement for employment.

She said she has yet to hear back, but has a meeting scheduled with Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman.

MacDonald said at this time she's "at a loss" and doesn't know what more they can do to get the spread under control as they have tried "every other route to no avail." 

A spokesperson for Mayor Drew Dilkens said in an emailed statement that Dilkens has also contacted the same provincial leaders as MacDonald to see what other resources can be sent to the region to assist with the crisis. 

"The local team feels that the province of Ontario should be providing a higher-level coordinating function to help ensure that isolation and recovery facilities are managed appropriately," reads the statement.

It continued to say that in a meeting Monday, Hardeman and the deputy agriculture minister confirmed they would seek increased provincial coordination with respect to the local public health unit. 

The statement said the mayor is following up on this commitment. 

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and MacDonald both confirmed the migrant worker assessment centre, which closed due to poor turnout, will reopen sometime soon. 

Neither could provide an exact date of reopening and Erie Shores Healthcare did not respond to confirm the reopening to CBC News. 

National representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Santiago Escobar said they had a meeting with the health unit Monday and are confident the recommendations they provided will be implemented. (Jason Viau/CBC)

United Food and Commercial Workers national representative Santiago Escobar said the assessment centre should be open after hours because most workers finish working at 8 p.m. or later. 

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union had a meeting with the health unit Monday during which Escobar said they addressed assessment centre hours and other concerns, including workers being informed of their rights and the health unit closing farms and greenhouses where outbreaks have occurred so that the facilities can be properly sanitized.

He said the living spaces of workers should also be sanitized and properly assessed to ensure appropriate physical distancing. 

Escobar said the health unit was receptive to the union's suggestions and he hopes they will implement the recommendations. 

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story reported the isolation centre was at the Holiday Inn in downtown Windsor. In fact, it is located at the Holiday Inn at Huron Church Road in Windsor.
    Jul 22, 2020 10:16 PM ET

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