Interior Health has confirmed five additional cases of COVID-19 related to an outbreak involving temporary foreign workers at a West Kelowna agricultural business, bringing the total number of cases to 19. The five cases stem from results that were still pending following the initial announcement of the outbreak on March 31.
On April 1, Dr. Silvina Mema, one of IH’s medical health officers, stated 27 workers at Bylands Nurseries Ltd. have been tested for the virus since the outbreak was identified. A total of 19 tests came back positive. All 75 workers — 63 migrant and 12 local — exposed to the virus have been self-isolating since the first case was confirmed on March 24.
On March 27, a second case was identified in a separate housing unit which caused IH to deem an outbreak.
Migrant workers are isolating on the property while the local workers have gone to their homes.
“We are doing as much as we can to continue to support our guest workers, ensuring that they have the food and supplies they need while in isolation,” said Mike Byland, vice president of sales and human resources at Bylands Nurseries Ltd, adding the company has partnered with Sysco to arrange food deliveries.
“We continue to work closely with Interior Health to support these individuals and to ensure all of our sanitation processes, operational practices and employee housing situations meet or exceed their recommendations. We are also working with Interior Health and the consulates to ensure our guest workers can return to work at an appropriate time.”
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Further testing is not planned and Mema does not anticipate any more cases to be confirmed.
Mema said the workers arrived at the farm between January and early March, with the most recent arrivals coming on March 12 — at which time Mema said the measures suggesting a two-week isolation period had not yet been implemented.
She said public interaction with the group was extremely minimal leading up to the isolation, as the group works and lives on the farm and groceries were delivered to them. None of the workers were involved in customer service.
However, Mema said people should still be behaving as though they could potentially be exposed.
“This virus has arrived — and not just to West Kelowna or Kelowna,” she said. “It’s across the interior and across B.C.”