Windsor

Migrant worker who tested positive for COVID-19 heads home for Christmas after isolating in hotel

A migrant worker from Guatemala who tested positive for COVID-19 is on his way home for Christmas and is speaking out on the conditions he says he experienced working at AMCO Produce in Leamington.

The UFCW says at least 10 workers at AMCO produce have tested positive for COVID-19

The UFCW says it knows of at least 10 workers at the facility that have tested positive for COVID-19. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

A migrant worker from Guatemala who tested positive for COVID-19 is on his way home for Christmas after weeks isolating in Windsor and Leamington hotel rooms as he recovered.

It will be his first trip home after two years in Canada.

The work is also raising concerns about the level of COVID-19 precautions he experienced working at AMCO Produce in Leamington.

"I didn't feel well. I was sad and I was nervous. I know people have died because of this and was praying to God that that wouldn't happen to me. My family was worried," the worker told the CBC in Spanish.

CBC has decided to protect the worker's anonymity because it could affect his employment.

The worker said that after he tested positive for the virus in early December he was put into the Best Western in Leamington by the company. He said while he was staying there, he was left alone with no help and was taking medicine he'd brought with him from Guatemala. 

The worker did experience symptoms of COVID-19. He said his whole body hurt, he couldn't walk well, lost his sense of taste and smell and had a fever. 

"I didn't even eat. I would leave most of my food. I went to bed and stayed there. I didn't want to eat and I wasn't even drinking water." 

He said he was moved to a the Comfort Inn in Windsor after he called the UFCW and it got in touch with the health unit.

He said that in that hotel he got calls from the Red Cross as many as 3 times a day checking on him. He said there were nine workers at the hotel where he was staying, a majority of which had tested positive for the virus.

The worker from Guatemala spoke to us on condition of anonymity from his room at the Comfort Inn in Windsor (Jacob Barker/CBC)
 

The worker said he's been with AMCO for the last two years, he was supposed to fly home on Dec.14 in time for Christmas but the positive COVID test kept him in isolation.

"I don't know when I'll be able to leave. I asked the supervisor why they haven't let me leave because I want to be home for the 24th and 25th and I don't know If I'll be there," the worker told us last week.

The UFCW says that since CBC spoke with the worker last week, he was given a ticket to fly home and was scheduled to leave from Toronto to Guatemala Tuesday morning and would be arriving in time for Christmas. 

"[He's] very excited," Santiago Escobar, national representative for the UFCW, said.

'Why me?'

The United Food and Commercial Worker's Union (UFCW) said there are at least 10 workers it knows of from AMCO Produce that have contracted COVID-19. It said many of the company's workers are in quarantine, some with symptoms and some awaiting test results.

Neither the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit nor AMCO Produce has confirmed an outbreak at the Leamington facility. CBC has requested comment on the worker's concerns several times by phone and by email but the company has not responded.

The worker is not sure how he contracted COVID-19.

He said there were measures put in place initially at AMCO as the virus began its spread in the spring. 

Workers were kept from leaving, except to buy groceries, and the number of people staying in his bunkhouse was cut in half. But after a couple of months, he said, things began to slide, noting that some started going into town without wearing masks.

He said that he and others complained about two co-workers who weren't following the rules but supervisors didn't do anything. They also didn't say anything, he said, when Lakeside produce, right next door experienced a major outbreak in the summer. 

National representative for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Santiago Escobar says the worker was very excited when he found out he would be getting a ticket home in time for Christmas. (Jason Viau/CBC)

"When I tested positive I started to cry and asked 'Why me' if I protected myself," he said.

About the Author

Jacob Barker

Videojournalist

Jacob Barker is a videojournalist for CBC Windsor.

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