During Monday's daily COVID-19 briefing, the province's associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said they are considering splitting Windsor-Essex up once again when it comes to moving to Stage 3 of reopening — potentially leaving Kingsville and Leamington behind.
"We are working very closely with the health unit in Windsor-Essex with respect to their outbreaks, and prevention and control thereof, so we have to look into the distribution of the outbreaks and the trends in terms of deciding which parts — if the whole health unit or parts of the health unit can move forward," she said.
The idea doesn't come as a surprise to Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald, who says she understands if the decision is made to leave the municipality behind, but still feels disappointed.
"I think the data shows that we do not have our arms around this COVID pandemic locally and if I was a numbers person, I would say the same thing," she said, adding that it doesn't come as a shock since Leamington moved to Phase 2 later than the rest of the region.
"I quite honestly think that we need to learn to deal with Phase 2 before we move to Phase 3," MacDonald said.
"The businesses that are affected, I get that. I feel for them, but we need to have our residents understand. We need to get the province to help us with the agri-food industry and getting that under control. We don't have that under control yet."
WATCH | Ontario may consider regional Stage 3 reopening for Windsor-Essex:
Her comments were echoed by Leamington business owner, Chad Robinson of Crave Family Grill & Pub.
"I can't say that I'm terribly surprised. Here in Leamington, we are very well aware of where the problems are and we know that the solutions are in place, but we are lagging behind the statistics for the rest of the province," he said.
"So, while it may not be good for my individual business, it probably is safer for our communities at large."
Robinson said he'd like to see more migrant farm workers tested, but understands the challenges involved in making that happen.
He said he is afraid to lose business, like he did when Windsor moved to Stage 2 and Leamington still remained in Stage 1, but says "it is a short term pain for a long term game," adding that he's appreciative of the community's support.
Sam Badreddine, owner of O' Sarracino Trattoria and Wine Bar in Kingsville, is upset by this idea and thinks it's unfair to him as a business owner.
He said while they've adapted to the changes, he fears his customers will leave town to dine at restaurants in Windsor if the province does decide to split the regions in terms of reopening.
Badreddine said that decision will impact his business.
"Unfair to businesses"
"It did the first time that Windsor went to Phase 2 and we were in Phase 1. We were able to see the impact of the revenue immediately on our first weekend that it happened," he said.
Badreddine — who is from Windsor — said Kingsville is not far from Windsor and predicts people will drive to the city to take advantage of Stage 3.
He said the province fails to realize how splitting the regions might impact businesses and hopes the government will move Windsor-Essex to Stage 3 together.
There are currently six outbreaks in the agricultural sector in Leamington and Kingsville. So far, there have been 1,061 total cases of COVID-19 detected among workers in the agri-farm sector.