City passes plan to help COVID-19 positive migrant workers self-isolate, says mayor

Mayor Drew Dilkens announced that the City of Windsor is expanding its Isolation and Recovery Centre — the model which was initially designed to help people experiencing homelessness — to now help migrant workers who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Mayor Drew Dilkens says the city is leasing a hotel to house farm workers indefinitely

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens Dilkens says this initiative is in an effort to slow the spread of the virus and lower numbers so that the city can move to Stage 2 of reopening. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

The City of Windsor is expanding its COVID-19 Isolation and Recovery Centre to now help migrant workers who have tested positive for the disease.

The centre was initially designed to help people experiencing homelessness self-isolate if they contracted COVID-19. On Tuesday, city council voted to expand this model, with all costs covered by the farms.  

Mayor Drew Dilkens told CBC News that this initiative is an effort to slow the spread of the virus and lower numbers so that the city can move to Stage 2 of reopening.

"There is no doubt that I am hearing from a lot of business people, a lot of members in the community saying 'we want to move to Stage 2. Why are we being held back?'" he said.

"The numbers in the city ... are very, very low and new cases are largely attributed to the migrant farm worker population. And so, we realize that something has to be done with that population."

This move comes after the mayor called on the province to help test more migrant farm workers for COVID-19. 

Fifty-eight new cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex were reported over the weekend, with 50 of those cases in the agriculture sector. (CBC)

Dilkens said there isn't much the city can do to deal with the situation " that's multiple jurisdictions away from us but is affecting our region."

"One of the things we can do is make sure the system is set up so that if someone is identified as being COVID positive, that they have a safe place to self-isolate for two weeks," he said. "We're talking about people who don't have any other option because you're here from another country."

Self-isolating in hotel

The city will be leasing a hotel, but Dilkens did not disclose which one will be housing the workers.

According to a statement, the hotel will be closely monitored to ensure that residents remain on-site and staff will be available to supply meals and check-in services.

Wilfrid Laurier University professor Janet McLaughlin, whose research focuses on migrant farm workers' health and safety, said she's pleased to hear about this initiative.

"It can be very difficult for workers to self isolate on farms and of course, continuing to live in congregate housing can place other workers at risk," she said. 

"I was also relieved to hear that meals and check-ins will be provided by social service and public health officials. This will hopefully help to provide much needed support."

Dilkens said the idea is to "get over this hump as quickly as possible so that as a region, we can move forward, get the businesses open, get people back to work and start running this economy and get it moving once again."

"We have no hope of moving forward if our numbers don't go down," he said.


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