The Ontario government is allowing Chatham-Kent’s neighbours in Windsor-Essex to move into Stage 2 of reopening on Thursday, June 25, 2020 at 12:01 a.m., with the exception of the Municipality of Leamington and the Town of Kingsville.
Provincial officials say these areas are being held back due to the higher transmission rates in the local agriculture and agri-food sector.
This decision was made in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the local Medical Officer of Health of Windsor-Essex County Health Unit.
The announcement was made on Wednesday by Premier Doug Ford, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development Monte McNaughton.
“Our government is doing everything in our power to reopen every region of Ontario safely and gradually, and with (Wednesday’s) announcement, the province is nearly all in Stage 2,” stated Premier Ford in a press release.
“Right now, we need to redouble our efforts to support the people in the Leamington and Kingsville areas, so that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and get those remaining businesses and services open.”
The majority of Windsor-Essex can reopen and move into Stage 2 as local data and information indicates there is lower transmission of COVID-19 in these areas, Provincial officials say.
There is also sufficient hospital capacity, public health capacity to do rapid case and contact management, and a significant increase in testing.
Outbreaks in agriculture and agri-food sectors pose unique challenges that require a targeted and collaborative response, Provincial officials say.
Working with federal and local authorities, Ontario is implementing a three-point plan to support Leamington and Kingsville to move into Stage 2 as soon as it is safe to do so.
Work is already underway to expand and provide ongoing on-site testing on work sites.
The Chief Medical Officer of Health is also issuing 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, Provincial officials added.
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.
“We are able to open most of Windsor-Essex because of our collective efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 in these communities,” stated Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, in a media release.
“We will continue to provide the necessary support to Kingsville and Leamington so that they can safely move into Stage 2 as well when they are ready. Now more than ever, it remains critical to continue to follow public health advice, including physical distancing with those outside our social circle or household.”
The three-point plan to support Windsor-Essex to move into Stage 2 includes ongoing and expanded on-site testing, access for workers to employment benefits and supports, and new public health guidance for positive asymptomatic workers for all workplaces, Provincial officials say.
There are two general assessment centres at Windsor Regional Hospital (Ouellette Campus) and Erie Shores Healthcare in Leamington.
One additional assessment centre at the Nature Fresh Centre is ready to reopen should demand increase or to schedule specific times to accommodate testing for smaller farms.