COVID-19 claims life of migrant worker

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One of the workers at a Vittoria farm where there has been cluster outbreak of COVID-19 has died.

Matt Terry, director of communication for the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit, issued a news release on Sunday morning saying the worker had been in intensive care in London. He said the man’s name and age wouldn’t be released for privacy reasons.

Haldimand Norfolk’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai; Rev. Peter Ciallella, the priest at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Burford and St. Anthony Daniel Parish in Scotland; and health unit staff visited workers at Scottlyn Group farm Saturday night to personally deliver the news, said Terry.
“I’m extremely saddened at this loss of life,” said Kristal Chopp, chair of the board of health. “It’s an absolute tragedy that someone who comes to Canada to work in the agricultural industry and support his family back home loses his life so far from his loved ones. My sincerest condolences go out to the individual’s family during this difficult time.”

There are currently 199 positive cases among migrant farm workers at Scotlynn Farm and 18 cases among people associated with the farm, said Terry.

The outbreak continues to be largely contained to the farm, and any close contacts of farm workers are in self-isolation,” said Terry. “The health unit team continues to manage the situation in an effort to bring the outbreak to a conclusion.”

On Friday, it was reported that three migrant workers were in hospital and two in intensive care.

Ciallella said he returned home early Sunday morning after “visiting all seven bunk houses sprawled out over 20 kilometres on Scotlynn Farm.

He said he and Nesathurai, along with Marlene Miranda, general manager of the Haldimand-Norfolk health and social services department, spoke to more than 200 farm workers and informed them of the death of their co-worker.

We addressed their concerns and offered prayers for their companion,” said Ciallella. “It took us over two hours. It was quite an emotional and moving experience.”

Ciallella, who began a ministry in 2017 for migrant workers from Mexico who come to Brant County farms each year, organized a collection of gift bag items to give to workers who had been quarantined in Brantford hotels for two weeks due to an apparent lack of vacancy at Norfolk hotels. Ciallella said the gift bags were delivered Wednesday as the workers were finishing their quarantine.

In a news release issued on Friday, the health unit said 13 workers associated with the Scotlynn outbreak have been treated in the hospital and all those who served a self-isolation period at Brantford hotels had returned to their residence at the farm.

The outbreak at Scotlynn occurred in six bunkhouses occupied by 221 offshore workers from Mexico. The outbreak began in late May. With so many workers sidelined for health care or for quarantine, the outbreak forced Scotlynn to abandon a portion of its asparagus harvest.

As well, dozens of health unit workers have been busy this month with contact tracing and ensuring that members of the community who came in contact with the virus are tested and, if necessary, serving a two-week quarantine.

At last report on Sunday, the health unit said 445 people in Norfolk and Haldimand had tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic was declared in March.

A total of 31 deaths have been reported in the local health unit district. Of these, 27 were registered at the Anson Place Care Centre in Hagersville, also the site of a major cluster outbreak.