COVID-19 outbreak at Norfolk Country farm grows, 164 people test positive

A southwestern Ontario health unit says that a COVID-19 outbreak at a farm in Norfolk County has grown.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit says in an update on Tuesday that 164 people have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Number of cases among migrant workers rises to 21 at St. Thomas-area farm

The health unit said Sunday that 85 workers had tested positive for the virus, while late Sunday the municipality’s mayor said the number was 120.

The health unit says seven people have been admitted to hospital.

In all, 210 people from the farm have been tested for the virus, with 46 testing negative.

The health unit says it is working with the farm’s management to contain the outbreak in the residences of migrant workers.

Approximately 20,000 migrant workers come to Ontario each year to work on farms and in greenhouses. Outbreaks that have affected dozens of migrant workers have been reported in Chatham-Kent, Windsor-Essex, Niagara Region and Elgin County.

A chart from Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit showing the number of new cases per day (blue) and the number of cumulative cases (green) from March 13 to June 2, 2020.
A chart from Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit showing the number of new cases per day (blue) and the number of cumulative cases (green) from March 13 to June 2, 2020. Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit

On Monday, Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp said, “We have always understood that this was a risk that our community could face,” adding that the health unit had been preparing for this possibility.

“Other communities in Ontario and across the country have also faced similar situations with on-farm outbreaks.”

READ MORE: 120 workers test positive for coronavirus in outbreak on farm near Simcoe, Ont.

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit said over the weekend that the Mexican government liaison had been notified. The health unit said it is working with the farm, owned by Scotlynn Group, and its clinical staff are developing a plan to evaluate and monitor symptomatic workers.

The company said in a statement that it has executed an isolation plan to stop the spread of the virus. It also said with a large number workers not available, it is looking for additional help with an asparagus harvest.

Last month, advocates for migrant workers said the province should ramp up inspections of the farms and the bunkhouses workers live in.

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