120 individuals test positive for COVID-19 on Norfolk farm
By Stephanie Gordon
As of late last night on May 31, more than 120 individuals from a farm in Norfolk County, Ont. have tested positive for COVID-19, according to an update written by Kristal Chopp, the mayor of Norfolk County.
The migrant workers are employed by Scotlynn Group farm, a major producer of sweet corn, watermelon, asparagus and pumpkins. The Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit states that the liaison official for the Mexican consulate has been updated, and is available to speak to workers. As well, the federal agency that supervises the temporary foreign worker program has been advised of the outbreak.
Update: As of June 1, the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit updated saying of the approximately 210 test results received so far, 164 individuals have tested positive, while approximately 46 have tested negative.
In response to the outbreak, the local Health Unit will also be conducting additional community testing for the employees of a store in the community. Mayor Kristal Chopp says this action was decided “out of an abundance of caution.”
“This action should not be construed as anything other than our Health Unit undertaking additional testing to provide peace of mind to a limited number of individuals,” Chopp wrote. “Our Health Unit is working hard alongside Scotlynn Farms and the Delhi Community Health Center team to ensure the health and safety of the affected workers and the members of our community as a whole.”
For the seven people currently in hospital, Chopp expressed her prayers are with them and their families.
Call to the community
Scotlynn Group posted a short statement on their Twitter thanking everyone that sent kind words to members of their workforce impacted by the outbreak. However, now the farm faces a shortage of help with a large number of employees in isolation.
The farm, as well as the mayor, put out a call to the community, now removed, to come help with the asparagus harvest.
“With a large number of employees no longer available during isolation there will be $25/hour employment opportunities for any groups of five looking for work,” the Scotlynn Farms’ announcement read. “It is mandatory that you provide your own group of five. Each group will be isolated on a 10-acre asparagus field harvesting from 7 a.m. through approximately 4 p.m. daily. There will be no interactions with other groups.”
In her own update, the mayor echoed this call to action: “So I ask that you please consider stepping up during this time of crisis, get a group of five friends together, enjoy some days under the sun and make a few dollars for your efforts! If you have a group of five able to work, they are looking for approximately 30 teams.”
Chopp cautioned the community against jumping to conclusions, adding that the farm has “since the start of this pandemic [done] everything that was asked, and more, by our Health Unit, including quarantining [their] workers individually in hotels.” Even with these efforts, the farm is now dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak and having their operations severely impacted.
“The support of our community is greatly appreciated through this difficult situation,” the Scotlynn Farm concludes. Anyone looking to obtain more information about helping out with harvest can call 1-800-263-9117 ext. 2225 and ask to speak with Jorden.
Scotlynn Farms posted an updated open letter, stating that migrant workers who are self-isolating will continue to receive their entire compensation, including: wages, lodging, and all required amenities.
“We want to reassure everyone that it is our desire to return all employees back to work as soon as it is safe to do so. We are actively working with Public Health Ontario and the Ontario Deputy Minister of Health to develop a plan that will not only ensure the safety of Scotlynn employees, but for all temporary foreign workers across Ontario.
“Furthermore, we will implement weekly random COVID-19 surveillance testing in cooperation with the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit at all our migrant worker housing locations. We are requesting that process to become mandatory across Haldimand-Norfolk to ensure our community, businesses and neighbours do not have to endure a repeat of our situation.”
In response to the call out to the community made earlier in the week, Scotlynn Farms stated, “Our increased pay opportunity is in effort to maintain a secure food supply during this unforeseen disruption. The response has been overwhelming and we are incredibly grateful. We will continue to evaluate our needs during these uncertain times and we will advise of any new opportunities that are available.”
An Open Letter from Scotlynn Group pic.twitter.com/fK2GQuKy33
— Scotlynn Group (@ScotlynnGroup) June 2, 2020