At least 85 COVID-19 cases from migrant worker outbreak in Norfolk County
NORFOLK COUNTY -- An outbreak of COVID-19 has been declared at the Norfolk County farm Scotlynn Group.
Of the 90 tests adminstered at residences of migrant workers, 85 people have tested positve for the virus.
Roughly 25 are showing symptoms of the disease, according to Sunday news release from Haldimand-Norfolk Public Health.
Five migrant workers have been admitted to a hospital with COVID-19 and one is in the ICU.
Health officials say they expect there to be more positive cases in the near future.
The Delhi Comunity Health Centre is assisting in the response and has sent a team to evaluate symptomatic workers.
According to the news release, the liaison official for the Mexican consulate is available to speak with workers.
The federal agency that supervises the temporary foreign worker program has also been advised of the outbreak.
On Saturday, public health said 140 people are in self-isolation.
Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp says health officials are treating this the same as an outbreak at a long term care home.
“They have begun segregating people, those that are symptomatic, those that are not,” she said. “For those that had results come back negative, they’ve all been segregated and then we are looking at further seperation.”
Chopp adds that the public health unit is looking at all possibilities for contact tracing.
“Determining who may have arrived at the farm, there are some workers that do work at the farm that would be Canadian citizens and so on, so they’re all being tested as well,” she said.
Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer Dr. Shanker Nesathurai agrees with that contract tracing is the next step.
“The goal of the public health service ultimately is to try to contain the number of cases and identify people that might be exposed,” he said.
Public health says the migrant workers at Scotlynn Group in Vittoria served their two-week self-isolation period when they first arrived. The risk of transmission from them is no different than anyone else in the community, according to officials.
Scott Biddle, the president of Scotlynn Group, says he wants to make sure no one else has COVID-19.
“We’ve shut down, we’ve disinfected, we’ve cleaned the facilities, harvesters, picklers, and we went a step further and isolated everybody,” he said. “We brought in 207 migrant workers from Mexico and did the self isolating for 14 days as instructed by the health department.
“It’s been about 25 days now that they’ve been out and working.”
Nesathurai says that if someone had COVID-19, they would have cleared it during the two week period.
Biddle adds that the workers stay contained on the farm and only go to the grocery store before hours.
“They have no real other interaction with the community,” he said.
Testing is underway for those who live at the three affected residences, other farm employees, and some community members.
“Although this is a challenge, it is a manageable challenge,” said Nesathurai.
Calling for More Help for Migrant Workers
While public health says they are doing everything they can, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change says it is not enough.
“Currently we are assisting the five workers that have been hospitalized as a result of this outbreak,” said Syed Hussan, executive director of the alliance. “Our biggest priority right now is the fact that the five workers who are hospitalized have not been able to recieve any information in their first language.
Their families were able to get in touch with us, but the hospital has not provided interpreters.”
The alliance is calling on all government levels to provide more protection for migrant workers.
Chopp says she’s not sure what happened at the hospital, but was at the farm Saturday and saw a translator being used for an interview process.
CTV Kitchener reached out to Norfolk General Hospital late Sunday afternoon, but did not hear back.
Have Food Products Been Affected?
Food safety and security expert Sylvain Charlebois says consumers do not need to be concerned about the outbreak at the farm.
“You have a better chance of getting sick from salmonella or E.coli than COVID-19,” he said.
Biddle says they are waiting for negative test results before they can get back to business.