June 24, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced that the public health region of Windsor-Essex will be partially allowed to move into stage two of reopening, effective Thursday, June 25 at 12:01 a.m. The areas of Leamington and Kingsville, which contain farms experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, will remain in stage one. The province is also rolling out a targeted response aimed at reducing the spread of COVID-19 in the agri-food sector.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott; Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development, Monte McNaughton; Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams; and Chief Coroner for Ontario, Dr. Dirk Huyer.
Earlier today, the Ontario Legislature extended the provincial Declaration of Emergency until July 15, 2020. This extension will ensure that the province continues to have the flexibility and necessary tools to safely and gradually reopen.
Plan to Reduce COVID-19 Spread in Agri-Food Sector
Leamington and Kingsville, which are currently experiencing several on-farm outbreaks of COVID-19, will remain in stage one while the province works to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the agri-food sector.
Premier Ford, Minister Elliott, and Minister McNaughton also announced a targeted three-point plan to rapidly scale up COVID-19 testing in the agri-food sector and reduce the risk of transmission on farms and throughout the Windsor-Essex community. The plan involves:
- Ongoing and Expanded On-Site Testing
Ontario is working with employers to continue to facilitate on-site testing at agri-food businesses including 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 workplaces and the community.
- Access to Employment Benefits and Supports for Temporary Foreign Workers
Premier Ford and Minister McNaughton emphasized that temporary foreign workers are entitled to the same benefits and protections as any other worker in Ontario, and will not lose their jobs or be sent home if they test positive for COVID-19.
If a temporary foreign worker tests positive for COVID-19 and is required to self-isolate, their job will be protected under Ontario’s infectious disease emergency leave. They are also eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits administered by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB), and may qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) in some cases.
- New Public Health Guidance
To support farmers, the Chief Medical Officer of Health will issue new public health guidance which will allow positive asymptomatic workers to continue working as long as they follow public health measures in their workplace to minimize the risk of transmission to others. In recognition of the spacious outdoor work environments on farms, this guidance will enable workers who have tested positive for COVID-19, but who are not showing symptoms, to continue safely working outside and in isolation from the rest of the workforce.