COVID-19 infected migrant workers move to Brantford

Officials question lack of consultation

BRANTFORD – 122 confirmed COVID-19 positive migrant workers from Mexico, affected by an outbreak at a farm in Haldimand-Norfolk, have arrived at Brantford area hotels to begin their mandatory 14 day isolation period.

The plan for the worker’s isolation and safety was put in place by the Brant County Health Unit and Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit (HNHU).

Brant County Health Unit’s Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Elizabeth Urbantke, says both health units will continue to monitor the situation daily, and the safety of the community is the highest priority.

“Hotel staff were briefed and were given instructions on procedures to avoid contact with these guests and how to discard garbage and linens safely,” Dr. Urbantke explains. “All rooms and will be professionally disinfected after guests have left.”

“HNHU staff will conduct daily wellness checks, and the workers have been given contact information if any issues arise,” Dr. Urbantke adds. “The workers have all been swabbed and clinically assessed and are either asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic.”

Brantford Mayor, Kevin Davis, says upon learning of the infected workers’ move to quarantine within the city, his first concern was the health of Brantford residents and what risk it may pose to the community, if any.

“I feel strongly that The City of Brantford, and in particular our Emergency Operations Committee, should have been provided more notice that this action was intended prior to the affected workers being moved into a hotel in Brantford. I am also not convinced at this point that every possible avenue was explored to isolate the farm workers in the Haldimand-Norfolk area.”  

Kevin Davis, Brantford Mayor

Davis emphasizes this is in no way the fault or responsibility of the labourers who come to work hard to provide for themselves and their families. He says the response to a situation like this should have been planned long before the farm program was reopened, and then shared with each community in a coordinated manner.

“This situation could potentially compromise our ability to manage a farm outbreak within the jurisdiction of our own health unit,” Davis says. “We certainly take pride in being a good neighbour, and want to provide support to Haldimand-Norfolk when and where we can, however, I am still concerned that our local healthcare system could be overwhelmed, should a number of the farm workers quarantining in Brantford become seriously ill.” 

Davis questions why Brantford is dealing with the consequences of a farm outbreak outside the community, and is asking the province to investigate the handling of the matter.

Brantford-Brant MPP, Will Bouma, says he is ‘deeply troubled’ with the lack of information shared from the BCHU and HNHU with the Emergency Operations Centre, the Mayor of Brantford, and his office.

“There were no consultations offered outside of the respective health units. We continue to work with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture Food and Rural Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Labour to address this situation.”

Will Bouma, Brantford-Brant MPP

The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit continues to work closely with the leadership team of Scotlynn Group to manage the outbreak at their residences for migrant workers at the farm.

To date, there have been no workers on farms in Brantford or Brant County test positive for COVID-19.