A single farm in Windsor-Essex, Ont. was the site of some 175 cases of COVID-19 and further testing is likely to find more cases at other farms in the region, Premier Doug Ford says.
Ontario reported 257 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, with 177 of those cases confirmed by the Windsor-Essex public health unit following targeted testing of migrant farm workers over the weekend.
The farm where the 175 cases were identified employs about 450 people, Ford said at his daily COVID-19 briefing Monday.
"We have a great team out there and we're going to do everything in our power to resolve these cases as soon as possible," Ford said.
The premier added the government has also identified a number of recruitment agencies that may be flouting rules, "fly-by-nighters" as he called them, and will be taking action against them. What that action might look like, Ford didn't specify.
Ford added that inspectors have issued about 70 orders over the course of the 250 inspections performed at the farms so far.
No change to plan for asymptomatic workers to keep working
Last week, the government announced a plan to allow farm workers infected with COVID-19 to continue work as long as they are asymptomatic. Asked Monday if the spike in cases would change that plan, Health Minister Christine Elliott did not directly address the question, saying instead that a team of nurses and translators will be visiting the farm to determine that workers are in fact asymptomatic.
Those with symptoms "may need be moved off the property. They may even need to be in hospital. We're going to make sure that they are thoroughly medically checked out," Elliott said.
At a news conference Monday afternoon, the province's Associate Medical Officer of Health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said closing down the farm is "one of the considerations," but the province's public health officials are still monitoring the situation.
"At the end of the day, the employer is responsible for ensuring that workers are not at risk," Yaffe said.
Elliott has said the testing is part of the province's three-point plan to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus among temporary workers in the agri-food sector.
Plans are also in the works to expand testing for farm workers in Niagara, Haldimand-Norfolk and Brantford, said Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer.
Three migrant workers with confirmed cases of COVID-19 have died in Ontario since the outbreak began, two in Windsor-Essex and another in the Haldimand Norfolk health unit.
Leamington and Kingsville, both areas within the Windsor-Essex health unit with high populations of temporary farm workers, are the only two parts of Ontario that have not yet been given approval to move into Stage 2 of the province's reopening plan.
Ontario's network of community, commercial and hospital labs processed 27,127 novel coronavirus test samples yesterday, the Ministry of Health says.
Eighty additional cases of COVID-19 were confirmed elsewhere in the province. However several public health units — most notably Toronto — removed a handful of cases that were mistakenly duplicated in previous updates, rather than reporting any new cases. That means there are almost certainly new cases that were not included in today's figure.
Asked why test results particular in Toronto appeared to be delayed beyond 24 to 48 hours, Huyer told reporters the province's labs are working over capacity and that can have an effect on turnaround times.
There has now been a total of 34,911 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ontario since late January. About 86.5 per cent of those are resolved, including an additional 89 marked resolved yesterday. Some 2,050 cases remain active.
The number of patients in Ontario hospitals with confirmed infections of the novel coronavirus increased by 18, up to 232. At the peak of the outbreak, more than 1,000 people with the illness were hospitalized.
Blue Jays could arrive July 1st, quarantine rules unclear
Meanwhile, those requiring intensive care fell by five, down to 46, and the number on ventilators dropped by 1 to 35.
Ontario's official COVID-19 death toll grew by seven and is now 2,665. However a CBC News count based on data provided directly by regional public health units puts the real toll at 2,716.
Ford was also asked Monday whether the Toronto Blue Jays should be allowed to play home games in Toronto with the players likely travelling in and out of the city without observing a 14-day quarantine.
On that, the premier said he was in talks with Toronto Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro "all weekend," and that Shapiro is currently awaiting a letter of support from the federal government on the issue of quarantine.
"If they can move forward, practice will start, I believe they're going to arriving July 1 and kicking off the practice moving forward," Ford said, adding Major League Baseball has a rigorous testing program.
Having a home base in Toronto would mean the Blue Jays can avoid using their spring training facility in Dunedin, Fla. — at least for the time being.
Several Blue Jays players and staff recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus. The team shut down its Dunedin facility on June 19 after a player showed COVID-19 symptoms.
Players arriving at camp this week must undergo an immediate temperature check and two COVID-19 tests — a diagnostic PCR test and a blood-drawn antibody test.
Also Monday, the mayors of five Toronto municipalities unanimously agreed on a request to the province to make masks mandatory in indoor public settings.
Yaffe said in response that the province is considering its options but is sticking to "strongly encouraging" non-medical face coverings for now.
Yaffe cited the question of enforcement and also raised the question of whether the measure is necessary across the board, or whether it would be better implemented on a regional basis.
27 cases linked to Kingston nail salon
Meanwhile, five more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in an outbreak related to a nail salon in Kingston, Ont., including an employee at another salon.
The Kingston, Frontenac and Lennox & Addington Public Health unit says a total of 27 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are linked to Binh's Nail and Spa.
Six of them are staff, six are clients and the rest are their close contacts, a spokesperson for the health unit told CBC Radio's Ontario Morning.
One of those close contacts works at a different salon in the city, which has closed. None of the 27 is in a hospital.
The health unit said in a previous email to CBC Ottawa that more confirmed cases linked to local nail salons would mean it would order every nail salon under its jurisdiction to close.