Federal Health Minister Gets an Earful from Local Officials

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The federal minister of health has heard the concerns firsthand from local officials regarding the high number of COVID-19 cases among the local agri-farm industry.

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald, Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj, CEO of ErieShores Healthcare Ross Moncur along with Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed met via a teleconference for 35 minutes Thursday morning with federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Dr. Ahmed says they provided an overview to the minister about the local situation especially the challenges managing an outbreak in this sector.

He points out on-site testing is taking place at farms where there is a positive case as part of case and contact management, which is credited for limiting the outbreak.

But he says housing, accommodations and enforcement remain a big challenge.

So far, there have been 365 positive cases among the agri-farm sector, which includes local farm workers and migrant workers.

"The minister listened to all of these concerns and promised to get in touch with the respective ministries and to keep the conversation going," says Dr. Ahmed.   "We need to think about housing in the short-term and the long-term. This has continued to be a challenge and will  continue to be a challenge if we are not addressing it and the enforcement pieces."

Dr. Ahmed says some workers who have tested positive, don't seem to understand the seriousness of the situation.

"For example, individuals who need to self-isolate, there were instances where they were outside of their home, with no clear indication whether they were working somewhere."

He did not specifically talk about mandatory testing because, as Ontario Premier Doug Ford indicated on Wednesday, it can't be done. 

Dr. Ahmed says there are human rights issues and legal challenges when it comes to mandatory testing a certain sector of the population.