Today, the Health Services Appeal and Review Board issued its ruling on the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s section 22 order regarding the self-isolation of migrant farm workers.
The Board upheld all aspects of the order itself, specifically that each farmer must submit a self-isolation plan to the Health Unit.
However, the Board removed the requirement in the Self-Isolation Plan Checklist that limits the number of workers self-isolating in a bunkhouse to a maximum of three, and indicated that each bunkhouse would instead have to be evaluated individually to determine the appropriate number of workers able to self-isolate.
We are disappointed by the Board’s decision. While the Health Unit has approved the vast majority of area farmer’s isolation plans, the above changes will mean that increased public health resources will be needed in order to avoid delays in future plan approvals.
The Health Unit’s section 22 order is reasonable and effective at protecting farms from the disastrous effects of a widespread outbreak of COVID-19 during migrant workers’ initial self-isolation period.
As evidenced by the outbreak which took place during the hearing, the virus can easily spread among large numbers of workers living in a congregate setting, significantly impacting farming operations.
The Health Unit has filed an appeal of the Board’s decision, as we believe that preserving the Health Unit’s section 22 order and the accompanying Checklist is important to help farmers and the Health Unit effectively manage a crisis that has not only impacted our community but a number of others.
The number of workers able to self-isolate in a bunkhouse remains at three during the appeal process.
We will continue to work closely with area farmers – including the members of the Norfolk County Agricultural Advisory Committee – to search for workable solutions to this situation. Both Norfolk County and the committee members understand the risks COVID-19 presents, and will continue to work together to ensure the continued health and safety of both migrant workers and the wider community.