Municipal review could be on the way because of COVID-19

Greenhill Produce operation on Kent Bridge Rd. (Photo courtesy of Chatham-Kent.ca)

Chatham-Kent’s top bureaucrat says society may have to reconsider a wide number of issues and practices in the wake of COVID-19.

Chief Administrative Officer Don Shropshire is proposing a review of all municipal procedures that could include all municipal common places to reduce the risk of future outbreaks such as coronavirus.

Shropshire made the comments at a media briefing conference call Thursday morning. He said bunkhouse standards are a provincial mandate but best practices for all municipal common places could be reviewed after the pandemic is over to prevent an outbreak like the COVID-19 outbreak at Greenhill Produce in Kent Bridge.

Shropshire emphasized it’s just a review that could happen and no changes are needed right now. He admitted more must be done in the future to keep society safe because being in close proximity to one another has become a challenge.

“There will probably be a lot of review of what the current practices are with things like building codes and the like to see if we need to make any adjustments to reduce the risks in the future,” he said.

He said local public places could see more plexiglass than before to keep the public separated and safe.

Shropshire said Greenhill Produce has met all of the current housing standards laid out by the province and has been inspected by the health unit daily to keep workers safe. He added the municipality is also enforcing all of the current provincial standards for fire, building, and public health across the area.

Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby announced on Thursday that 48 workers have now tested positive at that greenhouse operation, up from 47 on Wednesday, but he said an increase was expected. Colby said he hopes there won’t be anymore contagious migrant workers confirmed.

The sick workers remain separated from healthy employees at different bunkhouses on site. Shropshire said the outbreak is being contained on-site and there are no different living arrangements planned for them.

Colby also said there’s no need for the Greenhill greenhouses where the workers perform their job to be specially sanitized because COVID-19 is not a food-borne virus and doesn’t last long on surfaces because it’s fragile. He added the warm temperature inside the greenhouses gets rid of any virus hanging around.

When asked if there would be extra swab testing for migrant workers at other greenhouses to determine if any one of them has the virus, Dr. Colby said no. He said blind testing is not a good idea because it doesn’t really work.

“We’ve had to re-test some people that we were quite sure had COVID-19 but tested negative. So, the test doesn’t work for people who have a low probability of disease in the first place,” added Colby.

Dr. Colby said it takes six days after the infection starts before the test becomes positive and there are faulty negatives associated with the swab test. He said positive results are dependable but negatives are uncertain.

None of the migrant workers needed to be hospitalized and Colby said they are all recovering well.

CK Public Health reported a total of 83 positive cases on Thursday afternoon with 52 of them still active (48 of them at Greenhill Produce). A total of 30 people have recovered and only one death has been reported.