Dr. David Colby, the Medical Officer of Health for Chatham-Kent, has issued a class order to protect temporary foreign workers in C-K from the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Province of Ontario is taking immediate actions to stop the spread of COVID-19 in C-K’s neighbouring community in Windsor-Essex.
CK Public Health officials say Dr. Colby’s order states that “all owners and/or operators of agricultural operations in Chatham-Kent that employ temporary foreign workers on a casual, permanent, temporary, contract, temporary-help, or other basis” must abide by actions listed in the order.
“I am of the opinion that there is a high risk of increasing the spread of COVID-19 within agricultural operations in Chatham-Kent,” Dr. Colby said in the order.
“The measures specified in this Order are necessary in order to decrease or eliminate the risks to health associated with the COVID-19.”
Dr. Colby said failure to comply with the order could result in a fine of no more than $5,000 for a person or not more than that $25,000 for a corporation.
“For every day or part of each day on which the offence occurs or continues,” Dr. Colby said.
Colby added that the following measures are in “addition to requirements under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act and Quarantine Act” in respect of all temporary foreign workers:
– Ensure that all temporary foreign workers who have arrived in Canada are isolated for 14 days from the date of arrival in Canada.
– Keep a list of names of all temporary foreign workers scheduled to arrive in Canada, their planned date of arrival, actual date of arrival, and a plan for isolation of all temporary foreign workers.
– Ensure all temporary foreign workers in isolation are kept at a minimum of two metres apart from all other workers.
– Ensure that reasonable arrangements are made for the provision of food, water, laundry, and cleaning supplies for all temporary foreign workers who are placed under isolation.
– Ensure all temporary foreign workers under isolation notify the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit if they have any COVID-19 symptoms.
– During the 14-day isolation period, ensure that no temporary foreign worker works on any agricultural operation.
– Notify the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit if any temporary foreign worker needs to leave self-isolation for any reason during the 14-day isolation period, such as to seek medical attention.
Dr. Colby said in the order that the following measures are in respect of all workers, including: permanent and temporary employees and workers, temporary foreign workers, contract workers, local workers, temporary help agency workers and casual workers:
– Ensure that accurate and updated contact information for all workers is available to be produced to the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit within 24 hours of request in support of case management and contact tracing requirements.
– Ensure that all workers arriving to work from any area where there is community transmission have tested negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours prior to entering or beginning work.
– Conduct screening once per shift, including asking if workers are experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, difficulty breathing, alterations in smell or taste, if they have travelled outside Canada and if they have been in close contact with any persons infected with COVID-19.
– Ensure that workers are assigned to the same team/group/work pod (cohort) that is separated from other individuals and teams/groups/work pods. Within the team/group/work pod, workers should maintain a two-metre physical distance from other workers. The need for PPE should be based on a risk assessment that may take into consideration factors such as local epidemiology and input from the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit.
– Follow all legislative requirements to protect worker health and safety, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the terms of this Order.
– And ensure that all workers understand their rights and entitlements, including how to access to healthcare services and other supports that may be available if a worker becomes sick.
The order is pursuant to Section 22 (5.0.1) of the Health Protection and Promotion Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.H.7 and was enacted on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.
The full order can be seen, here.
There has been one workplace outbreak in Chatham-Kent since the pandemic started, at Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge.
The outbreak is no longer active, CK Public Health officials confirmed.
Province creates plan to stop COVID-19 outbreaks in Windsor-Essex
Meanwhile, the Province is stepping in to assist Chatham-Kent’s neighbour in Windsor-Essex.
Provincial officials say in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and local public health officials, the Ontario government is implementing a three-point plan to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 on farms and throughout the community.
Recent outbreaks, especially those in the agriculture and agri-food sectors, pose unique challenges that require a targeted response, Provincial officials say.
By taking immediate action, health officials hope to stop the spread of the virus and move the region into Stage 2 as soon as it is safe to do so.
Details of the plan were provided today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
“We are doing everything we can to help Windsor-Essex contain this virus and get back on track, so we can allow local businesses to reopen and get more people back to work,” stated Premier Ford in a media release.
“Clearly, our agricultural sector in this part of the province is being hit particularly hard. Our three-point plan will give farmers the support they need to protect essential workers and ensure they can keep putting food safely on our tables.”
The three-point plan builds on the work already underway by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit and enhances the coordinated efforts of the province, federal and local authorities. The plan’s three points are as follows:
- Ongoing and expanded on-site testing
Ontario is continuing to facilitate on-site testing at agri-food businesses and community assessment centres to make proactive testing more timely and accessible. About 350 asymptomatic workers have been tested at their work site since on-site testing launched this past weekend. Ontario is currently engaging employers to schedule more mobile testing on farms. Early identification of workers who are not showing symptoms, but who may be infected with COVID-19, will help reduce the potential spread of the virus in the workplace and the community.
- Access to Employment Benefits and Supports
Temporary foreign workers are entitled to the same benefits and protections as any other worker in Ontario. That includes workers’ compensation benefits, which are administered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). It also includes protections afforded by the Employment Standards Act. Under Ontario’s new infectious disease emergency leave provisions, a worker’s job is protected while they take unpaid leave due to COVID-19.
In certain cases, temporary foreign workers may also be eligible to apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). To access the federal benefit, workers must have earned $5,000 in the last 12 months or in the previous year.
- New Public Health Guidance
The Chief Medical Officer of Health will issue new public health guidance allowing positive asymptomatic workers to continue working as long as they follow the public health measures in their workplace to minimize the risk of transmission to others. This guidance will provide clarity and assurance that local public health officials will assist with interpreting test results and developing a plan that, first and foremost, ensures essential workers in the sector are able to return to work safely and meet the business-critical operational needs on a case-by-case basis.
“By providing both farmers and employees with economic certainty, this three-point plan will allow the rapid scaling up of testing in agri-food sector workplaces across the region,” said Minister Elliott in a press release. “These targeted actions build on the collaborative and comprehensive response already in progress and will allow us to better identify and isolate cases so we can move this region into Stage 2 and safely reopen.”
“The safety of workers on farms and in greenhouses across the province is critically important as we work to overcome COVID-19,” said Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, in a press release.
“They work incredibly hard to support our farmers as they plant, harvest and process the good things that grow here in Ontario. It is critical that we step up our efforts at this challenging time to protect these essential workers and ensure our local produce gets to market.”
“A worker’s passport does not determine how they are treated in our system,” stated Minister McNaughton, in a media release.
“That’s not the Ontario way. If you’re working in this province, I want you to know that your health and safety is a priority for our government.”
The Chief Medical Officer of Health and health experts will continue to closely monitor the evolving situation in all regions of the province to advise when public health restrictions can be gradually loosened or adjusted if necessary, Provincial officials added.