Windsor-Essex to launch COVID-19 vaccinations for farm workers

COVID-19 vaccination eligibility is expanding once again in Windsor-Essex, with public health looking to shots in the arms of migrant workers on farms, as well those of some people who can't get to a clinic.

Vaccines also coming to homecare recipients who can't leave their residence

The COVID-19 vaccine clinic opened up at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington in March. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

COVID-19 vaccination eligibility is expanding once again in Windsor-Essex, with public health looking to get shots in the arms of migrant workers on farms and some residents who can't get to a clinic.

Beginning next week, the health unit said teams will be vaccinating recipients of chronic home-care who can't leave their houses. There are about 300 people expected to receive shots at home in the coming weeks, said Theresa Marentette, CEO of the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU).

The health unit will also start rolling out shots on farms using the Moderna vaccine.

"Area farms were hard hit by the pandemic last year, and continue to experience challenges due to their congregate living setting and work setting," she said.

The move to start vaccinations on farms follows calls to protect the province's temporary workers from COVID-19 — and avoid the crisis seen last year. Two workers in Windsor-Essex died after contracting COVID-19.

There were nearly 50 outbreaks and about 2,700 temporary foreign workers caught COVID-19 in 2020, Marentette said.

The workers, including some who are not temporary foreign workers, will be vaccinated at the Nature Fresh Farms Recreation Centre in Leamington next week. The hope is to complete 400 vaccinations in a day, Marentette said.

As of Friday, the health unit's website has a section for health-care workers in some high-risk categories to register for vaccines, as well as a means for people with the highest-risk health conditions, as well as one of their caregivers, to register for vaccination.

The list of which conditions qualify as highest risk is set by the province and includes organ transplant recipients and people with kidney disease.

Meanwhile, the health unit said the region's case count has risen by 62, and there are 454 active cases in the region.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed, who presented his weekly epidemiological summary at the health unit's daily briefing on Friday, said the region is continuing to see a spike in COVID-19 cases.

However, it's not seeing the record COVID-19 surge being seen elsewhere in the province.

"But we know how quickly that can change," he said, adding that if the region continues to follow the current path, the situation will be similar to December and January.

For the most recent seven days, the region saw an average of 86.6 cases per 100,000 people. For the previous period, it was 72 cases.

The percentage of people testing positive out of all of those tested in the same time period has risen to six per cent from 4.6 per cent the previous week.

Ahmed expressed concern about cases rising among school-aged children and young people, but said so far, the region has yet to see a significant increase in hospitalizations despite the recent spike in cases.

Seventeen people are hospitalized with COVID-19, including four in intensive-care units. 

Since the pandemic began over a year ago, 409 people have died from COVID-19 locally. No additional deaths were reported Friday.

So far, 124,594 residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 114,968 doses have been administered. In total, 25.6 per cent of residents have gotten at least one shot.

COVID-19 exposure alert issued

The health unit has issued a COVID-19 exposure notice for Windsor Christian Fellowship Church at 4490 Seventh Concession Road in Windsor.

The potential exposure is considered low risk, but anyone who entered the church on the following dates is asked to monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for two weeks after the date visited:

  • Friday, April 2 (9 a.m. service.)
  • Sunday, April 4  (9 a.m. and 12 p.m. services.)
  • Sunday, April 11 (9 a.m. and 12 p.m. services.)

10 outbreaks active

Of the 62 new COVID-19 cases reported on Friday:

  • 19 involve close contacts of cases that were previously identified.
  • Seven were community acquired, meaning there is no known source of transmission.
  • 36 are under investigation.

There are 10 ongoing outbreaks, including at the following schools:

  • Centennial Central Public School.
  • St. Peter Catholic School.
  • St. John Vianney Catholic School.

Outbreaks are taking place at seven workplaces :

  • Four are within Windsor's health care and social assistance sector, one involving a variant of concern.
  • Two in Windsor's manufacturing sector, including one involving a variant of concern.
  • One in LaSalle's manufacturing sector.

COVID-19 in Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton

Lambton Public Health reported eight new COVID-19 cases Friday. There are 114 cases active overall.

Chatham-Kent reported an increase of seven new cases and 41 infections are considered active overall. 

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