Work can resume at Leamington farm after COVID-19 outbreak shut down the facility
Some workers are "terrified" to go back to work, says union director
Leamington's Nature Fresh Farms is allowed to have some workers pick up shifts again after the facility was forced to shut down when nearly 200 employees tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
The farm was issued a section 22 order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit Wednesday. As a result of the order, the facility had to immediately halt all operations in order to deal with its COVID-19 outbreak.
At Monday's daily press briefing, Windsor-Essex's medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said those who tested positive for COVID-19 or those who were in close proximity to someone with the virus were removed from the farm and put in self-isolation.
"Our investigation identified all the high risk people who needed to be off the farm, so those people are off the farm," Ahmed said.
He added that since it is a large facility, people who are not connected with the farm or any cases being investigated, they can go back to work.
"That is the intention, to give them some employees to maintain their operation as best as possible," Ahmed said.
Nature Fresh Farms has not responded to a request for comment.
United Food and Commercial Workerss Union western Canada regional director Pablo Godoy said workers he's been in touch with, who work in a Nature Fresh Farms packaging facility, say they are on call to go in to work for a 5 p.m. shift on Monday.
But as of Monday afternoon, it was still unclear whether that would actually happen.
Overall, Godoy said the workers are receiving very minimal information and because of this they are uncertain and scared to go back to work.
"This isn't the only farm we've received calls with workers terrified about going back to work, not knowing if they're literally risking their lives being at work," he said. "They're feeling like there's a disregard for their lives or well-being."
CBC News has verified a Facebook post made by the family member of a Nature Fresh Farms employee that states a "skeleton crew" was brought in over the weekend.
More than 700 agri-farm workers in Windsor-Essex have tested positive for the disease to date and a total of three Ontario migrant workers have died following a COVID-19 diagnosis.