The city of Windsor needs to be proactive in its preparation for the COVID-19 coronavirus. I say this as someone who cares deeply for the city, as I was born and raised there.
Anyone in the city will tell you that one of the best parts of Windsor is the easy accessibility to the United States via Michigan. This main attraction, though, could be what leads the city into very difficult scenarios in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Michigan has been one of the hardest hit states in America, with roughly 6,500 confirmed cases. The majority of those come from southeastern Michigan, where Detroit, the state's largest city, is located.
The Great Lakes State has a higher-than-average mortality rate, as well. As of March 30, Michigan has reported 184 deaths. Over 100 of those were in just three counties, all of which hold close proximity to Windsor.
It’s estimated that roughly 16,000 Windsorites work in the Metro Detroit area. And while many of those people may be out of work at the moment, an estimated 5,000 of those Windsorites work in the Metro Detroit medical system, which makes them essential employees.
COVID-19 cases in Windsor have shot up recently. The most recent figures show that it's already infected 44 of the city's residents. Two days before, that figure was 25. Two days before that, it was a mere nine cases.
The spike in cases was attributed to more testing, but frighteningly, the most recent increase was found after just 50 tests were conducted at the Windsor Regional Hospital.
In an interview with CBC, Windsor mayor Drew Dilkens expressed worry about workers making their way between the two cities, though he says he's not "ultra concerned" as of yet.
It’s been found that 60 percent of the city’s infected contracted the virus via community spread, rather than travel between the US and Windsor.
There are some reasons why Windsorites should be taking extreme precautions. One problem the city faces is its notably bad air quality.
A 2016 article by the CBC outlines the heavy industrial culture of the area, including Detroit, has deeply affected Windsor's air quality.
University of Windsor environmental health researcher James Brophy told the CBC that Windsor's air quality has been considered the worst in Canada "for the last four or five decades."
"You had the steel plants, lead smelters, we've got four coal-burning power stations going full-tilt [in Michigan] and that's not counting what's coming in from Ohio. Windsor has been kind of a hot spot for this and Windsor's air pollution arises in the United States," Brophy said.
There are consequences to the region's poor air quality. Adults in the metro Detroit area have a 29 percent higher likelihood of developing asthma. And notably, Windsor's Remington Park neighbourhood has long been known as a cancer cluster, which is described as "a high number of cancer cases occurring in a group of people in a particular geographic area over a limited period of time."
In 2016, the Remington Park cancer cluster was attributed to a higher than average rate of habitual smokers, though investigation still continues.
It’s been well documented at this point that those with underlying health conditions such as asthma are at a greater risk of being hospitalized from the virus.
The city also faces other challenges, including record-high figures for opioid abuse and homelessness.
The Windsor area is a blue collar town that has had its fair share of challenges. With the auto industry no longer being the Goliath it once was, the city is unfortunately used to some level of uncertainty.
If the city is well prepared, it will certainly come out on top. It’s a city that’s long lived as an underdog, and it’s that mentality, I believe, that will get the city through what could potentially be its darkest chapter.