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Migrant workers test positive in Norfolk County
LONDON, ONT. -- Scotlynn Group near Simcoe, Ontario has shut down after what the Haldimand-Norfolk County health unit calls an outbreak of COVID-19 among seasonal workers.
Company president Scott Biddle says he brought in 207 workers from Mexico late last month, and they completed a 14-day self-isolation.
Everyone was cleared, however 25 days later they had a positive case.
"Thursday we had a gentlemen go to hospital," says Biddle. "He tested positive for COVID-19. We tested everyone on the farm to make sure there is no further issues."
Dr. Shankar Nesathurai, medical officer of health for Haldimand-Norfolk says there are three positive cases, with 26 more workers who are symptomatic at 3 residences for seasonal agriculture workers. There are 140 people are now in isolation.
"There will be additional testing today (Saturday)," says Nesathurai.
"We have engaged in tracing contact, and we are also testing some people in the community. Although this is a challenge, this is a manageable challenge.”
Scotlynn Group is now temporarily shut down as they await the results of the additional testing.
"We cleaned the facilities, the harvesters and the pickers," says Biddle.
"We even went a step further and isolated everybody. Everybody has been swabbed and we are now waiting on test results. Negative results will wear proper equipment, use social distancing, and hopefully be back to work."
Dr. Nesathurai expects the results in the next 48 hours.
Biddle says his workers are contained on the farm, except for a trip to the grocery store. He says they have an arrangement where his workers attend an hour prior to the opening for the public. Other than that, he claims they've had no interaction with the public.
Nesathurai says they're still working on how the worker contracted the virus.
"I don't think there is enough data right now to know," says Nesathurai. "We haven't completed our assessment so we can't make any conclusions about our exact chain of transmission.'
The cases come at a time where a couple local farmers are appealing the section 22 order put in place by Nesathurai. Lawyer Andrea Plumb spent the past week arguing to the Health Services Appeal and Review Board on behalf of farmers concerning Nesathurai’s order limiting the number of migrant workers in a bunkhouse to three during the initial quarantine period when they arrive in Canada.
Plumb provided a statement to CTV News today.
"It's our understanding that the workers involved completed their self-isolation weeks ago and that during their self-isolation each worker stayed in their own hotel room. This is the approach that has been strongly advocated by Dr. Nesathurai the MOH for Haildmand and Norfolk County," says Plumb, a partner at Lerners Laywers LLP.
"It has consistently been our position before the Board that the greatest risk for transmission occurs after the workers have completed their self-isolation and are exposed to the community. Further, given that this occurred well after the self- isolation was completed, it drives home the point that these workers are at risk of COVID not from each other, because they have all completed a 14-day self-isolation, but rather from a member of the community. This is a key reason why my client has gone to tremendous measures to limit contact between the workers and the community."
This is the first COVID-19 outbreak featuring migrant farm workers in Haldimand-Norfolk, where there are 200 lab-confirmed positive cases.