Today we heard the disappointing news from the Ontario Government that Windsor-Essex will remain in Stage 1. These are decisions that the Province of Ontario is making based on medical advice and case counts in our area.
In another week, our region will be evaluated once again. But we cannot face another week of delay on the part of local public health officials to assess and contain the spread of COVID-19 among the farm worker population.
According to data from the Public Health Unit, within the past month, 82% of cases in our region are now located within Kingsville and Leamington. As Mayor of Windsor, it would be politically expedient for me to suggest, as many have, that our City be allowed to progress to Stage 2, while those harder hit in the County remain in Stage 1. But I know that we rise and fall as a region and it just won’t be possible for one community to move forward while others struggle.
The local agricultural sector contributes significantly to regional prosperity, employing thousands within Essex County, helping to feed countless others across the Province and Country. At this time, our local agricultural power-house is holding the rest of Windsor-Essex back from re-opening our economy.
While the local health unit has thus far refused to test the full temporary foreign worker population, this next week presents an opportunity for our local agricultural community to step in where public health officials have failed. On behalf of the residents of the City of Windsor, I’m calling for all Essex County farm operators to voluntarily have all farm workers tested this week – so that our region can seek to assess and contain the spread of COVID-19.
The City of Windsor is committed to doing its part to support our partners in Essex County in coping with the effects of the pandemic in their communities. Last week, City Council voted to extend the services of our Isolation and Recovery Centre to the farm worker population. Once again, we hope that neighbouring municipalities make similar arrangements.