Coronavirus Canada updates: 138 new cases in Ontario, mainly across four public health units

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Coronavirus Canada: Outbreak closes packaging plant in Delta
Coronavirus Canada: Outbreak closes packaging plant in Delta

Ontario reported 138 new cases, one death and 140 recently recovered patients in its latest 24-hour stretch.

The recent patients were identified after the Ministry of Health completed 25,640 tests, which is above its current seven-day average of 25,640.

Of the recently identified patients, 33 were identified in Windsor-Essex, 23 in Toronto, 28 in Ottawa and 12 in Peel. Sixteen of the 34 public health units reported no new cases on Saturday.

Windsor-Essex, which has the highest infection rate per 100,000 people in Ontario, continues to deal with agri-farm outbreaks. Of its 33 recent patients, 19 are part of that sector, while another eight cases are believed to have stemmed from community spread.

There are six agri-farm outbreaks in Windsor-Essex region, which is down by two since Friday, but health officials did identify a new manufacturing outbreak in Tecumseh, for a total of three. An outbreak is declared when there are at least two employees who test positive within a reasonable timeframe.

The Windsor-Essex region has the highest number of agri-farms that are participating in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, according to the region’s medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed. Because of the continued spread of the virus, along with failed testing initiatives, Premier Doug Ford said on Friday that he is looking into mandatory testing for migrant workers who arrive in Ontario.

“I tried to work — work until you can’t work any longer — with the folks. I would like to look into mandatory testing,” said Ford, noting that Windsor-Essex is expecting 3,000 more migrant workers to arrive.

“We have to check the constitution. I’ve got to make sure I go through the lawyers. I have to make sure to call the federal government. But what’s the problem to get a quick test? I’ve been tested a couple times.”

Throughout the pandemic, there have been 38,543 cases of COVID-19 in Ontario. That includes 34,240 people who have recovered, and 2,759 victims.

There remain 1,544 active cases (down by three since Friday). Among those patients are 97 people in hospital (down by 44), 30 in intensive care (down by one) and 21 who require a ventilator (up by one).

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, there are 13 active outbreaks among facilities in the province. Sixteen residents remain infected (down by one), along with 42 staff members (down by nine).

Windsor-Essex has Ont.’s highest infection rate, Ford looks into mandatory testing for migrant workers

Premier Doug Ford said he’s looking into mandatory testing for migrant workers as agri-farm outbreaks continue to grow in the Windsor-Essex region, and testing initiatives continue to fall short.

The announcement came after Windsor-Essex reported 53 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, 43 of which are among workers in the agri-farm sector. The region also currently has the highest infection rate per 100,000 people in Ontario.

“If someone comes into our country … that’s a privilege,” said Ford during a media conference, noting that Windsor-Essex is expecting 3,000 more migrant workers to arrive.

“I tried to work — work until you can’t work any longer — with the folks. I would like to look into mandatory testing. … We have to check the constitution. I’ve got to make sure I go through the lawyers. I have to make sure to call the federal government. But what’s the problem to get a quick test? I’ve been tested a couple times.”

According to the Ministry of Health, Windsor-Essex surpassed Toronto for having the highest infection rate per 100,000 people on July 18. But for months, outbreaks among agri-farm workers have continued to grow, while testing initiatives have caused confusion between officials and employers.

“It is definitely stressful, concerning and we’ve been dealing with this for quite some time now. For some it may be just a number as well, but it also means the time, the energy [and] the efforts that our staff are putting in are also multiplied significantly,” said Windsor-Essex’s medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed on the infection rate.

As of Thursday evening, the infection rate in Windsor-Essex stands at 484 per 100,000 people. Toronto’s infection rate is 448, while the Ontario average is 257.

Windsor-Essex is currently dealing with eight agri-farm outbreaks, with six in Kingsville and two in Leamington. Throughout the pandemic, 1,002 of the region’s 2,124 cases have been in the agri-farm sector, according to the local health unit.

It’s unclear how many of the cases involve migrant workers. Over the course of the pandemic, hundreds have been infected, and two have died in Windsor-Essex.

Each year, about 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario to work in greenhouses and on farms, many from Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean. They’ve been required to self-isolate upon arrival as part of the Quarantine Act, but there have been reports of them facing inadequate working and living conditions.

The Windsor-Essex region has the highest number of agri-farms that are participating in Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker Program, said Ahmed.

“It doesn’t hurt anyone, you come into the country, you self-isolate for two weeks, you get tested and it makes everyone feel more comfortable,” said Ford on his proposed testing initiative.

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