COVID-19 outbreak at Simcoe farm grows

·2 min read

A COVID-19 outbreak at Schuyler Farms in Simcoe has grown, with the health unit reporting 10 positive cases among the farm’s migrant worker population as of Monday.

“We’re in the early stage of our assessment, so we don’t know exactly the scope of the individuals who might become infected,” said Dr. Shanker Nesathurai, Haldimand-Norfolk’s medical officer of health.

Farmer Brett Schuyler told The Spectator that workers from seven of his 17 bunkhouses are currently in self-isolation.

He said five bunkhouses have at least one confirmed positive case. In one instance, four workers from the same bunkhouse tested positive for the virus.

Workers in two other bunkhouses tested negative but showed potential COVID-19 symptoms, so those cohorts are self-isolating as a precaution, as are close contacts of the COVID-positive workers.

The positive cases were discovered after mass testing of approximately 200 farm employees following the first diagnosis of COVID-19 on Nov. 2.

Schuyler said the affected workers are feeling well, adding that “a handful of people” have mild symptoms such as a cough or fatigue. No workers have been hospitalized.

“Right now nobody is seriously ill, and we’re hoping that stays the same,” he said.

While a pair of test results are still pending, Schuyler is encouraged that dividing his workforce into cohorts seems to have helped slow the spread of the virus, along with mandatory mask use, signage promoting social distancing, and daily cleaning of all touch surfaces in bunkhouses and farm vehicles.

“And the No. 1 thing being a workforce that all in all is taking this seriously,” Schuyler said. “Everyone at the farm right now is feeling really good about the practices we’ve taken so far, and we’re hoping that has contributed to this not being any worse.”

Nesathurai said the health unit is focused on limiting the spread of the virus within and off the farm.

“We are always concerned about an outbreak in any congregate setting spreading beyond the geographic location of that one enterprise, and that is something we’re working hard to contain,” he said.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator