On-Site COVID-19 Testing Begins at Area Farms

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A pilot project is underway to test migrant workers for COVID-19, on-site at Leamington farms.

Erie Shores Healthcare along with area partners will now go to individual farms and set up test locations to make it easier for workers to get swabbed.

A local greenhouse operation volunteered to be the first this past Saturday and 75-80 workers were tested per hour, with 240 tested by the end of the day.

Two additional farms have signed up for the on-site Tuesday and Wednesday.

Erie Shores Healthcare CEO, Dr. Ross Moncur told AM800's The Dan MacDonald Show that Ontario Health asked them to run the pilot project to see if on-farm testing could work, which they tried Saturday.

“Certainly we had success. The employer that stepped forward as the first volunteer for that was very engaged with their staff,” he says. “As a result, over 95 per cent of the staff consented to testing when we were on site.

Moncur says they are ready to restart the Migrant Worker Assessment Centre, if needed.

“We believe it will allow quick testing which I think is scientifically important to get impact on this problem. So we've committed to remaining available should there be a demand for testing in that model again,” says Moncur.

Although more labour intensive for health care workers, it takes about 1.5 hours to set up and one hour to take it down afterwards.

40 staff members are required for each on-site testing location to allow for breaks.

It follows a Migrant Worker Assessment Centre in Leamington, which saw a poor turnout, with just over 700 workers tested over nine days.

There are about 176 farms in Essex County and about 8,000 workers.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit reported 32 additional cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, 30 of which are workers in the agri-farm sector.

 

— With files from AM800's Rusty Thomson