Windsor

Ontario deploys emergency management team to Windsor-Essex due to agri-farm COVID-19 outbreak

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has confirmed that the province's emergency management team has been deployed to Windsor-Essex. 

One greenhouse saw almost 200 COVID-19 cases in its employees last weekend

Ontario Premier Doug Ford used a daily COVID-19 briefing on Friday to confirm the presence of the emergency management team. (Government of Ontario/Facebook)

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has confirmed that the province's emergency management team has been deployed to Windsor-Essex. 

"It's all hands on deck," he said, during a daily COVID-19 briefing on Friday. "I want to try to help them, I feel terrible for the situation they're in."

Ford says the province's emergency management team is working with members of the Canadian Red Cross already in the area, as well as Public Health Ontario, to address growing concerns about COVID-19 cases among agri-farm workers in the region. 

Last weekend, a single Essex County greenhouse — Nature Fresh Farms in Leamington, Ont. — saw almost 200 workers test positive for COVID-19.

In an emailed statement, the Red Cross said Friday that it is "working closely with provincial and municipal authorities to determine the needs of migrant workers and the community" in Windsor-Essex and is taking part in ongoing discussions. 

This Red Cross statement was exactly the same as one it provided earlier this week when asked whether it was stepping in to help farms in the region. 

During the briefing, Ford also apologized for criticizing migrant workers during his briefing Thursday, when he said they were hiding from efforts to retest them for COVID-19.

Ford says his comments were based on misinformation but declined to say how he received the erroneous report.

WATCH | Ontario Premier Doug Ford confirms EMO in Windsor-Essex:

Ford says they have all hands on deck and are working quickly to resolve the situation 1:22

Speaking at the same Friday briefing, Ontario's chief coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer explained that the emergency management team is "providing support for the workers from one farm, where there was the notable number of positive COVID-19 findings, as well as those who may have been in contact with those positive workers."

Huyer added that the team is helping coordinate care, accommodations, as well as food for workers at the facility. 

Dr. Wajid Ahmed, medical officer of health for Windsor-Essex, was asked earlier Friday morning if the province's emergency management team was on the ground here. He wouldn't confirm its presence.

"We have been in conversation with the Ministry of Health Operations Centre regulars to help us," he said. "There are a number of parties involved in that conversation. I cannot say if they are here or not. 

Dr. Dirk Huyer says the team will support the agri-farm workers and ensure they are properly cared for 1:45

A statement emailed to CBC News Friday from a spokesperson for federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that Canada has taken a number of "substantial and important steps to ensure both Canada and employers could safely welcome temporary foreign workers during the pandemic." 

One of the steps was an email from Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough to the Mexican Ambassador to Canada on June 19. 

The email listed several short-term measures to enhance the safety of temporary foreign workers, including increasing outreach to workers, having investigations for workplaces in outbreak and educating employers. 

The statement from Hajdu's spokesperson said the minister recognizes there is "more to do to protect temporary foreign workers in Canada, and we are committed to looking at additional steps we can take in order to do so."

With files from Jason Viau and The Canadian Press

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now