Lessons learned from COVID-19 outbreak at West Kelowna nursery help protect residents, farm workers - InfoNews

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Lessons learned from COVID-19 outbreak at West Kelowna nursery help protect residents, farm workers

Image Credit: (Bob Brawdy/The Tri-City Herald via AP, File)
April 30, 2020 - 4:55 PM

As thousands of temporary foreign workers start trickling into the Okanagan, residents and the workers should feel comfortable that it won’t result in an increase in COVID-19 cases.

That’s the gist of what B.C.'s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said in answer to a question during her daily COVID-19 update today, April 30.

There was an outbreak of COVID-19 amongst a group of Mexican workers in March at Bylands Nurseries in West Kelowna where 23 of 63 workers tested positive due, in part, to a second small outbreak after the first 14-day incubation period.

They arrived before international travel was banned and since they were living in a communal setting the disease spread.

“It was the outbreak that we experienced in the Okanagan that really made us recognize that people in communal settings, like they were — even though they were very good accommodations — it was very challenging for the workers in those settings to isolate from each other once the outbreak gets started,” Henry said.

The incoming foreign workers are not living communally.

“What we have done is put them up separately so they are not having contact with each other,” Henry said. “They are being provided for in a hotel accommodation so they all have their own bathroom, their own room, they're provided food, they’re provided with means to have contact, they have outside time. But we maintain the physical distancing. We maintain the hygiene that's necessary.”

Four of the incoming workers, on four different flights, did test positive for COVID-19.

They were moved to a separate area in the hotel so there was no way they could have contact with any other workers, Henry said.

Because of that, the other workers have been cleared to travel to the farms where they are going to work this summer.

The workers are checked for COVID-19 in their home countries and, again, by Canadian officials when they arrive, Ministry of Health spokesperson Chris Shewchuk said in an email. If they show symptoms they are quarantined immediately and tested.

Those not showing symptoms are screened on arrival, checked during their stay and screened again before being cleared to leave.

Those who have symptoms and test positive must be cleared by a health care provider before being allowed to travel, Shewchuk wrote.

The workers are expected to remain on their host farms throughout their stay to minimize the risk of them or local residents spreading the disease to each other.

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