Migrant worker on Norfolk County farm who died of COVID-19 identified
Published Sunday, June 21, 2020 5:53PM EDT Last Updated Monday, June 22, 2020 9:22AM EDT
KITCHENER -- A Mexican migrant worker at a Norfolk County farm who died of COVID-19 has been identified, as Mexico agrees to resume sending workers to Canada.
Juan López Chaparro died in the intensive care unit at University Hospital in London on Saturday, according to a news release by the Migrant Rights Network.
Officials say that the 55-year-old is survived by his wife and four children.
Chaparro was employed with the Scotlynn Group in Vittoria and has been travelling to Canada since 2010.
At that farm, nearly 200 migrant workers are infected with the virus, but this is the first death associated with the outbreak.
The Norfolk County Health Unit says the Chaparro was one of the first to contract the virus at that farm.
“It was the case that triggered the investigation into the farm and further testing. He has been ill since the beginning,” says Kristal Chopp, Mayor of Norfolk County
Officials say he’s been hospitalized since the outbreak began in May.
Up until a few days ago, Reverend Peter Ciallella says there was still some hope for his recovery.
“Then by yesterday the call came out that things were not looking well,” says Ciallella with the Blessed Sacrament Church.
Reverend Ciallella says he got the news at around 9 p.m. last night and visited the farm to offer prayers.
“They’re sleeping by 10 p.m. and we just basically told them the news that one of their companions had passed away,” he explains.
After speaking to more than 200 workers, Ciallella says the hardest conversation was with the Chaparro’s bunkmate, his nephew, who had come to the farm to work with him.
“He broke down and cried, and so we just allowed him to cry out those emotions,” he says.
There are currently 199 positive cases among migrant workers at Scotlynn Group and another 18 among people associated with the farm.
One person remains in hospital and another is in intensive care.
“One question that they continually asked at all the different sites were ‘what is the risk of us getting affected again?’ and ‘what risk do we pose to our family?’” says Ciallella.
The farm had previously sent over 100 workers to quarantine in hotels, but they have since returned to stay in the bunkhouses.
“They know they’re working conditions are such that if one worker gets sick, everybody will get sick,” says Syed Hussan, executive director, Migrant Workers Alliance for Change.
Chaparro is the third Mexican migrant worker in Ontario who has died from COVID-19, following the deaths of two workers in Essex County.
The deaths have prompted demands for the provincial and federal government to step in.
“I’ve sent a letter to the minister of agriculture, our own local city cabinet, the premier, and we’re still not hearing anything back from the province at this point and time,” says Chopp.
“If you ate a peach, if you ate a grape, if you ate a tomato in the last three months, you do not know the person who grew that is now sick with COVID-19 or has potentially has died from COVID-19 to feed you,” says Hussan.
CTV News reached out to the owner of Scotlynn Group, but did not receive a response.
On Sunday, the Mexican government announced it would resume sending farm workers to Canada after temporarily stopping workers from traveling to the country.
In a press release, Mexico said Canada’s federal government committed to increased inspections, as well as more support for Mexican officials and workers to identify and report unsafe working conditions.