May 29, 2020, Simcoe, ON – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit is responding to an outbreak of COVID-19 among migrant workers at a local farming operation.
Three workers have been admitted to Norfolk General Hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, and one has tested positive for the disease. Paramedics are currently at the farm testing other workers for the virus.
The Health Unit is working closely with the farm operator to formulate a public health management plan.
The Health Unit will provide updates as they become available.
Update – Saturday, May 30, 2020
Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, hosted a phone conference interview with media on the morning of Saturday, May 30, 2020. He provided the following information:
There are three positive cases and 26 people that are currently symptomatic. Approximately 140 people are in isolation. Yesterday all people at these residences were tested, as well as other employees at agricultural enterprise. Additional testing is being done today. Haldimand Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU) is engaged in tracing anyone who may have had close contact with those involved, and that will continue today. Some tests have also been done on those in the community.
HNHU is not releasing the name or location of the agricultural enterprise at this time. Nesathurai said he “anticipates” that the business may communicate with the media/public themselves sometime today.
HNHU is still in the data collection phase of the outbreak management, working to identify anyone who may have contracted the virus, having them self-isolate and be tested. At this time the origin of the outbreak is unknown. However, the workers did serve out the entirety of their two-week isolation period when they arrived in Canada previously.
“These people completed their self-isolation period,” said Nesathurai, noting the many points of public travel involved in workers going to their home airport, then on the plane to Toronto, which is an “endemic area with many, many cases”, and finally to the farm. Nesathurai stated, “All of those (points of travel) carry additional risk, but when they arrive at the farm, the farmer has a self-isolation plan, whether at a hotel, a bunkhouse, or a trailer…. They serve their two-week period just like any other person returning to Canada. During that two-week period, if they had had COVID-19 they would cleared it. They either would have gotten sick, and we would have known they had gotten sick and we would have extended the quarantine period until it cleared, or they would have had no symptoms and they still would have cleared the virus even if they had it.”
Once the isolation period is served, Nesathurai said the workers are like any other resident of the health district: “Once they serve the self-isolation period, the risk of getting it from them is the same as anyone else in the community. They could be more identifiable because of their race, but the risk is the same…. When you think of risk, the risk is never zero. We should still continue with social distancing and avoiding travelling outside the home. I don’t think that if someone interacted with a farm worker their risk is any greater than anyone else in the community.”
Nesathurai added that the “situation is evolving” and as more information is gathered it will be shared.
Update – Sunday, May 31, 2020 – Farm name released
May 31, 2020, Simcoe, ON – The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit continues to work closely with the leadership team of Scotlynn Group to actively manage an outbreak of COVID-19 at residences of migrant agricultural workers at a farm.
Of the approximately 90 test results received so far, 85 individuals have tested positive, while approximately 25 workers are showing symptoms of the disease.
Five of these workers have been admitted to hospital.
The Delhi Community Health Centre is assisting in the response, and has sent a team to evaluate symptomatic workers. Clinical staff are developing a plan to monitor these workers.
As part of the public health management plan, Health Unit staff are contacting individuals who have been in close contact with a worker for further evaluation.
The liaison official for the Mexican consulate has been updated, and is available to speak to workers. As well, the federal agency that supervises the temporary foreign worker program has been advised of the outbreak.
The Health Unit is working closely with the employer, Norfolk’s Emergency Operations Centre, Norfolk General Hospital and the Delhi Community Health Centre to ensure an effective health management plan designed to protect the health and wellbeing of migrant workers and the community as a whole.