Decision to quarantine farm workers in Brantford hotel creates controversy
KITCHENER -- Two Brantford politicians are calling for an investigation after a decision was made to quarantine 119 migrant workers at local hotels.
All of the workers are employed at Scotlynn Farms in Vittoria.
After one worker contracted COVID-19 last week, the other 217 workers were also tested. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit confirmed Tuesday that 164 of those tests came back positive. Of the seven employees still in hospital, two remain in the intensive care unit.
The health unit then released a statement saying that “in an effort to hasten the recovery of the people currently residing in residences, approximately 100 individuals have been relocated to hotels.”
Most of them have tested positive for COVID-19, while others have been in close contact with other positive cases.
The Brant Count Health Unit confirmed Tuesday night that all the workers were staying in Brantford-area hotels.
Brantford’s mayor claims he didn’t even know about the decision to move the workers until they started arriving in the city.
“I was completely surprised, there was no consultation,” says Kevin Davis.
Norfolk County’s CAO insists the decision to bring the workers to the Brantford area was based on availability.
“Each of the workers had to quarantine one to a room,” says Jason Burgess. “There wasn’t sufficient rooms in Norfolk.”
Davis believes he still should have been consulted.
“We’re a friendly community,” he says. “We try to help our neighbours. But ask first, please.”
Will Bouma, the MPP for Brantford-Brant, says he too should have been informed of the plan.
“What disturbs me is that you are taking 120 people who have tested positive from an isolated, rural setting and moving them into the middle of a city of 100,000 without talking to anyone about it and without letting anyone know,” he says.
Bouma is concerned that the move could impact the local healthcare community.
“If 10% of the 120 people that we’re housing right now were to need hospitalization, that would overwhelm our system,” he says.
Burgess disputes that, saying in one case where a worker needed extra care, the individual was brought back to Norfolk County for treatment.
“If there are additional resources required, they came back to our community,” he says.
During their two-weeks of isolation, the workers have been told to stay in their rooms. The Brant County Health Unit says they won’t have any contact with hotel staff, who have been given strict instructions on how to safely handle garbage and linens.
Sonia Aviles, who works for the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, says it’s better for the workers to be out of the bunkhouses and staying in hotels.
“It’s the proper thing to do,” she says. “However, our reaction in general, is that the spread of the virus could have been avoided at this farm.”
The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit will be conducting daily wellness checks with the workers throughout their quarantine.
Burgess says they also have extensive plans in place to ensure the virus doesn’t spread.
Despite these assurances, Mayor Kevin Davis and MPP Will Bouma are asking Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer to look into the matter.