Govt. Confirms Windsor Essex Not Moving To Stage 2 This Week

Monday June 22nd, 2020

Posted at 1:27pm

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The government of Ontario has confirmed reports that Windsor and Essex county will remain in Stage 1 of the province’s reopening plans.

“The threat of this virus in Windsor Essex is too great,” said Premier Doug Ford.  “I want to reassure Windsor Essex today that our government is doing everything in our power to make sure your region can reopen as soon as possible.”

Ford said the province is conducting proactive testing by sending mobile testing units to farms, and they’re doing proactive testing at food processing plants.

“We will do everything we can to get our final region, Windsor-Essex, into Stage 2 as soon as possible,” said Ford. “That’s why we are ramping up testing and inspections on Ontario’s farms to protect workers and keep our food supply chains strong and healthy.”

Ford said he’s pleading with the area’s farms to take action to move the region forward.  “I’ll tell it the way it is, farmers just aren’t cooperating, they aren’t sending out the people to get tested.  We gotta bang our heads off the wall to figure out why,” he said.

Ford said his plea last week to farmers to have workers tested was “just kinda brushed off”.

“You’re affecting the largest region, and it’s not fair to the people of Windsor, it’s not fair to other people doing what you’re doing to people,” he said.  “It’s not fair for the region, the businesses, by not getting the workers tested.”

Ford warned he will “go to the extreme” and “pull out other tools” if farms don’t proactively test their workers.

To ensure Windsor-Essex is able to move forward as soon as it is safe to do so, the province says they’re building on the work completed by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit work on the following:

  • Continuing with proactive targeted testing for agri-food workers, including enhanced on-farm testing;
  • Conducting more than 200 Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development on-farm inspections and investigations;
  • Starting new joint inspections of farms with federal authorities to review current working and living conditions of temporary foreign workers with the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development and local public health officials;
  • Providing $15 million through the Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection program, which provides cost-share funding to improve employee and workplace health and safety on farms and in processing facilities. The funding can be used to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE), put up physical barriers, make housing modifications, or provide alternate housing or other measures;
  • Translating COVID-19 health and safety guidance documents into Spanish and posting them on Ontario.ca/covidsafety. Additional resources, including webinars and helpful posters, are also available, and will help farmers and other agri-food employers provide safe and healthy workplaces;
  • Providing specific funding to Workplace Safety and Prevention Services to deliver resources and consulting services to help farmers and other agri-food businesses provide safe workplaces; and
  • Continuing to press the federal government to provide new funding to support priority sectors impacted by COVID-19, including the agricultural sector, as the province reopens and charts a path to economic recovery.

“Our government is committed to protecting our agri-food workers who continue to produce the safe and healthy foods Ontarians rely on,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. “Expanded on-farm proactive testing, more workplace inspections and additional resources like our $15-million Enhanced Agri-food Workplace Protection Program are part of our coordinated effort to safeguard our farm workers.”

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health is also strongly recommending that local medical officers of health use their authority by issuing orders to decrease the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on farms in these ways:

  • All foreign workers self-isolate for 14 days from the date of their arrival, with the resources and supports they need to avoid any contacts with others and notification to public health unit if they have any COVID-19 symptoms;
  • All workers coming from any area where there is community transmission have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to beginning work;
  • Daily active screening;
  • Accurate and updated contact information of permanent, temporary and contract employees available to the public health unit within 24 hours and ensuring employees are assigned to the same group to support effective case management and contact tracing;
  • Physical distancing maintained between workers as best as possible and personal protective equipment to be provided based on risk assessment; and
  • All legislative requirements to protect worker health and safety are followed.

The province announced Toronto Public Health and Peel Public Health will enter Stage 2 on Wednesday, June 24th at 12:01am. They will join the 31 other public health regions that entered Stage 2 on June 12th and 19th.

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