Coronavirus: COVID-19 outbreak declared after 40 farm workers test positive

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A failure to comply with public health measures at a southwestern Ontario farm has led to at least 40 workers testing positive for COVID-19, local authorities said Tuesday.

The Southwestern Public Health unit said the cases have been linked to living quarters for workers at a farm in Bayham, Ont., in Elgin County.

Read more: Coronavirus: Canada’s migrant farm workers face fatal COVID-19 outbreaks, alleged mistreatment

“There has been a lapse in compliance with public health measures that has resulted in the 40 cases,” said Dr. Joyce Lock, the unit’s medical officer of health.

“The close proximity to one another facilitated the quick spread of the virus throughout the group.”

One person was admitted to hospital for COVID-19 symptoms on Friday and has remained there after testing positive, Lock said.

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That prompted the testing of a total of 157 people, including the workers and their close contacts, she said.

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Those who have tested positive are a mix of local and migrant farm workers, Lock said, adding that there currently doesn’t appear to be community transmission of the virus beyond the farm outbreak.

Kevin Martin, president of Martin’s Family Fruit Farm, said the outbreak was at the Vienna Farms Orchards, one of the company’s facilities.

He said the company is working to support its employees.

“We’re checking in regularly, making sure that everyone is doing OK,” he said. “Just making sure that everyone is healthy and getting the care that they need.””

Read more: ‘Something that could happen to anybody,’ woman says after 3 family members catch COVID-19

Martin said the company was working on preventing similar outbreaks in the future.

“There certainly will be some opportunities for learning that we can improve on,” he said. “People can be vigilant in following the guidelines they’ve been asked to follow.”

Lock said the public health unit was working with the farm operator to identify where measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 broke down.

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A number of farms in southwestern Ontario grappled with outbreaks earlier in the pandemic.