The house where the undocumented workers live isn’t hard to find.
Located just 100 metres from one of Leamington, Ontario’s main intersections, the sprawling structure has clearly seen better days. The paint is peeling, shingles are curling, and some of its filthy windows are cracked.
Yet it is home for nearly 20 foreign farm labourers — most of them lacking the proper permits to work in Canada. Men who are now trying to balance concerns about COVID-19 with fears that the act of getting tested might get them deported.
“If I get sick, there is no solution,” says one resident. “Because I don’t have money.”
The 43-year-old came to Canada from Guatemala a year ago under a government program. His permit has since lapsed, but he continues to work, moving from farm to farm as a temporary hired hand, and sending his modest wages back home to support his wife and 11 children. He asked not to be named because of his immigration status.
And despite the outbreak in Southwestern Ontario that has now sickened close to 1,000 migrant farm workers — most in Leamington and neighbouring Kingsville in Windsor-Essex County — and killed three of them, the man says he has no plans to get tested for the novel coronavirus.
“I don’t show any symptoms. I don’t know anyone who has it, and I feel there’s no need to at the moment,” he says. “I don’t see it, so it doesn’t exist to me.”
Provincial ‘action plan’
Agriculture is big business in Windsor-Essex, with more than 175 farms, greenhouses and wineries contracting some 8,000 official migrant workers to help raise and harvest the crops every year.
So as coronavirus cases began to spike among workers, Ontario Premier Doug Ford unveiled a three-point “action plan” last week, dispatching mobile testing units to farms, promising benefits and supports for ill workers who are put in quarantine, and altering rules to allow farmers to keep asymptomatic labourers on the job.
WATCH | Trudeau on the temporary foreign workers who died from COVID-19:
But none of his measures target undocumented workers, who are unlikely to present themselves for testing, and don’t qualify for free provincial health care, let alone any sort of government employment assistance.
It’s a gap that could make it more difficult to bring the farm outbreak under control, given the large number of so-called paperless labourers in the area, and help keep Leamington and neighbouring Kingsville the last two places in the province stuck at Stage 1 of the pandemic lockdown.
Santiago Escobar is a national representative with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, and a co-ordinator of the Agricultural Workers Alliance. He spent two years working out of a satellite office on Leamington’s main street, and says the local population of undocumented workers was much larger than the province or Ottawa liked to let on — as many as 2,000 workers, by his and other advocates’ estimates. A big number that Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald has also been citing.
“I think is it’s common knowledge that most of the workers that are hired through a temp work agency are undocumented,” says Escobar. “And due to their precarious status, unscrupulous employers and temporary work agencies are taking advantage of these workers.”
‘No masks, no gloves’
Rogelio Muñoz Santos, a 24-year-old from Chiapas, Mexico, arrived in Canada on a tourist visa in February. His family have told Mexican media outlets that he found a Spanish-language post on a Toronto Facebook page offering farm jobs paying $13 an hour — $1 an hour less than Ontario’s minimum wage — for a 70-hour week. He arrived in Leamington in early April.
He ended up living in a local motel, arranged by his recruiter, with four men sharing two beds and a bathroom, at a cost of $600 each per month, deducted from their pay.
His co-worker, who asked to be identified only as “Juan” because of his own undocumented status, recently told CBC’s French-language service Radio-Canada about how they both fell ill in early May as a flu-like illness swept through the farm where they were working.
“I didn’t want to work because I was already feeling sick. Everyone was getting ill, but they sent us to work all the same,” Juan said, noting that they travelled in vehicles containing as many as 20 people at a time. And no one took any measures to protect them from coronavirus spread. “No masks, no gloves, or goggles or information.”
The pair didn’t have a relationship with the farmer, only with the temp agency recruiter — a Spanish-speaking Canadian who paid them in cash. And when they fell sick with the novel coronavirus, isolating themselves at the motel, a public health nurse would call to check up, but no one brought them food or supplies.
“They abandoned me,” Juan said. “Same with Rogelio. They did nothing for me or for him.”
Muñoz Santos was admitted to Erie Shores Hospital in Leamington on June 1 with breathing difficulties, and transferred to an ICU in Windsor the next day. He died in hospital on June 5. It took more than three weeks for his body to be returned to his family in Mexico. He was finally laid to rest on June 27.
Barriers to fighting farm outbreaks
Dr. Ross Moncur, the chief of staff and interim CEO at Erie Shores Hospital, says there have been a series of barriers to overcome as health officials try to fight the farm outbreaks. Many workers have been reluctant to get tested for fear of losing weeks of income should the results come back positive. And some farmers have resisted, as well, concerned about the potential fallout during their busiest time of year. “What happens to their workforce?” asks Moncur. “Does it mean that they literally have crops rotting in the fields for the next few months?”
But undocumented workers are proving the hardest to reach.
“The biggest impediment there is that they don’t have [provincial health insurance] coverage, and so their assumption is that this type of testing is not available to them,” Moncur said, noting that his hospital will treat anyone who needs care, regardless of their immigration status.
That message, however, doesn’t seem to be getting through. CBC News spoke to a number of undocumented workers in Leamington. None of them had been tested. And few seemed aware that the local hospital was providing free COVID screening just a few blocks away from where they live and shop, complete with Spanish signage and interpreters.
Some were taking a fatalistic approach to COVID-19. One worker, a 39-year-old from Mexico who entered Canada on a tourist visa 10 months ago, says he’s leaving things up to a higher power should he fall ill.
“First, I would pray to God. If he sends me, allows me to go to hospital, I’ll go to the hospital,” he says. “But we are all going to die one day. We never know how. So it might be here or it might be in Oaxaca. We just don’t know.”
Asked specifically about their efforts to reach undocumented workers, Ontario Health, the agency overseeing the testing told CBC News that it is working with “key stakeholders” in the agricultural industry “to understand the full breadth of needs” and “other factors relating to the temporary worker experience in Ontario.” The agency stressed that testing is available to all workers, regardless of immigration status, but remains voluntary.
Justine Taylor, the science and government relations manager for the Ontario Greenhouse Vegetable Growers, says the Leamington-based organization has been encouraging its members to have all farm labour tested for coronavirus, regardless of how they have been hired.
Officially, the group doesn’t support the use of undocumented workers, although Taylor acknowledges that it is a “very complicated” issue for farmers, who often struggle to find enough hired help during their busiest periods.
“There is a need there,” Taylor said, adding that her association wants to work with governments to close the undocumented “gap” and “ensure that all workers are protected.” One path, she says, might be to follow British Columbia’s lead and create a provincial registry of recruiters and make farmers hire only from the accredited firms.
All such measures, however, will address the future, not the current crisis.
Erie Shores’ Moncur says there is a sense of a missed opportunity in Windsor-Essex, that these farm outbreaks — and deaths — were all too foreseeable.
From the very beginning, local health officials understood that agricultural workers were a “high-risk population,” he says, due to their living and working conditions. But the system was consumed with fighting COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, where more than 300 outbreaks have killed some 1,600 residents.
“We may have had a false reassurance that because they were relatively young and relatively healthy, that agrifood workers would be OK,” Moncur said. “That theory was certainly tested.”
And with hundreds of new cases this past week — 175 of them on a single farm — the region’s battle against COVID-19 is only beginning.
Fauci predicts U.S. will not return to lockdowns despite Delta variant risks | Saltwire – SaltWire Network
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday he does not expect the United States will return to lockdowns, despite the growing risks of COVID-19 infections posed by the Delta variant.
“I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns,” Fauci, who is also director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country – not enough to crush the outbreak – but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter.”
Although Fauci does not think the United States will need to shut down again as it did last year, he warned on ABC that “things are going to get worse” as the Delta variant continues to spread.
“We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who are not getting vaccinated,” he said.
The average number of new cases reported each day has nearly doubled in the past 10 days and the number of hospitalized patients in many states is surging, according to a Reuters analysis. https://tmsnrt.rs/2WTOZDR
At the same time, the number of Americans getting vaccinated has increased. (Graphic on global vaccinations) https://tmsnrt.rs/3tUM8ta
“The silver lining of this is that people are waking up to this and this may be a tipping point for those who have been hesitant,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told CNN on Sunday. “That’s what desperately needs to happen if we’re going to get this Delta variant put back in its place, because right now it’s having a pretty big party in the middle of the country.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and David Lawder; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)
A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – North Shore News
As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.
Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down.
Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:
Newfoundland and Labrador:
Newfoundland and Labrador is moving to the second step of its reopening plan two weeks ahead of schedule.
Beginning today (Aug. 1), fully and partially vaccinated travellers from Canada no longer have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, nor will they have to self-isolate.
With 52 per cent of residents aged 12 and over now fully vaccinated, the province says its mandatory mask requirements will be up for review during the week of Aug. 9.
If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.
Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.
Under the new rules, retail stores can operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.
Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.
Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.
Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.
Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.
The province has lifted all public health orders and its mask mandate has also expired.
That means all limits on gatherings are now removed, including in theatres and stores.
Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity, as long as customer contact lists are kept.
New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.
Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.
Prince Edward Island:
Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.
Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.
Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.
All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.
Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.
On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits.
Quebec’s government has removed capacity restrictions in retail stores across the province and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.
Quebecers from separate households are now required to keep a one-metre distance from one another indoors and outdoors instead of two metres.
The previous two-metre distance now applies only at places characterized by physical activity or singing.
Outdoor events are limited to a maximum of 5,000 people, while Indoor events are capped at 3,500 spectators.
Fans and those attending theatres or other performance venues must keep at least one empty seat between each other, and wearing a mask in public spaces remains mandatory.
All of Quebec is now at the lowest green alert level under the province’s COVID-19 response plan as public health restrictions continue to ease.
The province permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen in June. Supervised outdoor sports and recreation are also allowed in groups of up to 25 people.
Quebec ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.
Ontario has moved to the third step of its reopening plan, allowing for more indoor activities including restaurant dining and gym use, while larger crowds are permitted for outdoor activities.
Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.
Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.
Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.
Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events.
Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions.
Manitoba is loosening restrictions and allowing extra freedoms for people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as it moves into the second phase of its reopening plan.
Indoor gatherings are now allowed for up to five people, on top of those who live in a household, and 25 people in indoor public spaces. Outdoor gatherings are expanded to 25 people on private property and 150 in public spaces.
Restaurants and bars are allowed up to 50 per cent capacity and opening hours are extended until midnight. Retail stores can run at 50 per cent capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower. Fitness centres can open at 50 per cent capacity, but masks are still required.
Outdoor weddings and funerals can have up to 150 people and indoor events now have a limit of 25. Faith-based gatherings can expand to half capacity or 150 people indoors.
Businesses, such as casinos, museums and movie theatres, can open at 50 per cent capacity but only fully vaccinated Manitobans can take part. An upcoming Blue Bombers CFL game will also be open fully to fans who are double-vaccinated.
Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.
Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 69 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.
All remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.
There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.
Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.
Alberta, meanwhile, has announced that close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19 are no longer legally required to isolate, nor are they notified by contact tracers.
And as of Aug. 16, infected individuals won’t need to isolate. Testing will also be curtailed.
The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces has ended, but masks may still be required in taxis, on public transit and on ride shares.
Some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.
The province says it is no longer limiting the number of visitors, since vaccination rates are rising and there have been few cases in care homes.
Visitors, however, still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.
The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.
Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.
The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.
Restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory and recreational travel outside the province can resume.
Casinos and nightclubs are open again, but some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says some businesses may want people to continue wearing masks for now, and everyone should comply with those requirements or face the potential of fines.
Some restrictions have been reinstated in part of a health region in the Interior after an outbreak led to rapidly spreading infection in that area of the province.
That means masks are mandatory in all indoor public places in central Okanagan communities including Peachland, West Kelowna, Kelowna, Lake Country and West Bank First Nations lands. Gyms and exercise facilities must also require patrons to wear masks and reintroduce enhanced cleaning and physical distancing.
The face coverings are recommended outdoors in the region if residents are unable to physically distance, but they will be optional for children under the age of 12 when they’re attending summer camps or similar settings.
Nunavut’s chief public health officer says people living in the territory are no longer required to wear masks, but they are still strongly encouraged.
Dr. Michael Patterson says indoor public gatherings — such as in community halls — are now allowed to have 75 per cent capacity.
Restaurants, bars, theatres and places of worship can open to 75 per cent capacity and there are no limits on outdoor gatherings.
Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.
Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.
The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.
Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.
Yukon has expanded the rules for gatherings, allowing up to 200 people to get together, as long as masks are worn indoors and other health protocols are followed.
Fully vaccinated people can have personal gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors, but the unvaccinated are encouraged to stick with their “safe six” because they are at significantly higher risk.
Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity with restrictions.
The government says starting Aug. 4, people returning to the territory will not be required to self-isolate and masks in indoor public places will not be required.
Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to return to full capacity without the need for physical distancing.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 1, 2021.
The Canadian Press
Why an Israeli company is developing an oral Covid vaccine – MENAFN.COM
(MENAFN – AFP)
Imagine a Covid-19 vaccine that came as a pill: no needles, no medical professionals required to administer it, potentially delivered directly to people’s homes.
Israeli pharmaceutical Oramed is attempting to accomplish just that, and is poised to start its first clinical trial in early August, CEO Nadav Kidron told AFP in an interview.
With just 15 percent of the world’s population fully vaccinated, the global fight to end the pandemic is far from over.
Oral vaccines are particularly attractive for the developing world, because they reduce the logistical burden of immunization campaigns, said Kidron.
But they could also increase uptake in wealthy countries where needle aversion is an often missed factor in hesitancy.
A recent survey found nearly 19 million Americans who decline vaccines would take them if they had a pill option.
“In order for the vaccine to really work well, we need as many people to take it as possible,” said Kidron.
Other benefits include reduced syringe and plastic waste, and potentially fewer side effects.
– Challenges for oral delivery –
Despite many theoretical advantages, there have been few successful oral vaccines because the active ingredients tend not to survive the journey through the gastro-intestinal tract.
Exceptions include vaccines for diseases that are themselves transmitted through the mouth and digestive system — for example there is an effective oral polio vaccine.
Oramed, which was founded in 2006, believes it has overcome the technical hurdles by designing a capsule that survives the highly acidic environment of the gut.
It invented its technology for a previous product, an experimental oral form of insulin, the lifesaving drug required by diabetics that has until now been only administered by injection.
Developed with Nobel Prize winning biochemist Avram Hershko who is on Oramed’s scientific advisory board, the company’s capsule has a highly protective coating that makes it slow to degrade.
It also releases molecules called protease inhibitors that stop enzymes in the small intestine from breaking down the insulin, and an absorption enhancer to help the insulin cross into the bloodstream.
This drug has been dosed in hundreds of patients in late stage clinical trials in the US, with results expected in September 2022.
Oramed has now launched a new majority-owned company called Oravax, which takes the capsule technology from the oral insulin product and uses it for an oral Covid-19 vaccine.
– Virus-like particle –
To evoke an immune response, the company’s scientists have designed synthetic coronavirus-like particles.
These mimic three key structures of the pathogen: the spike protein, the envelope protein and the membrane protein.
Most currently authorized vaccines, like Pfizer or AstraZeneca, are based on the spike protein alone, making them less protective over time as the spike protein of the coronavirus mutates.
By targeting multiple parts of the virus, including structures that mutate less, the Oravax vaccine could be more variant-proof, Kidron said.
The company has applied to begin trials in multiple countries and expects to begin its first in Israel within weeks, pending approval from the health ministry.
Kidron said he foresaw a role for the vaccine initially in developing countries which haven’t yet bought up enough supply of current vaccines — before eventually developed markets.
A vaccine pill could become especially attractive if ongoing boosters are required.
If it’s successful, it would also represent a proof of concept for future orally administered vaccines, he added.
“Imagine… the flu vaccine comes to you in the mail, you take it, you’re done.”
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