Ontario’s COVID-19 case growth rose sharply on Monday after a weekend of surveillance in the Windsor-Essex area found 177 new infections in the area’s migrant farm labourer population.

The province reported a total of 257 new cases on Monday - 177 in Windsor-Essex and 80 in the rest of Ontario - representing a 44 per cent increase over Sunday’s total.

Health officials reported 111 cases on Friday, 160 on Saturday and 178 on Sunday.

“After extensive testing this weekend of temporary workers in Southwestern Ontario, the province is reporting 177 new cases of COVID-19 in Windsor-Essex, with another 80 new cases across the rest of the province. There were over 27,000 tests processed yesterday,” Health Minister Christine Elliott said Monday.

Last week, the province announced a major push to test as many migrant farm workers in southwestern Ontario as possible, and also enacted a measure that would allow workers who tested positive for the virus but did not show symptoms to keep working.

Three migrant workers have died so far across Ontario, and all known infections among migrant farm workers were acquired in the province after completing a 14-day quarantine upon entry.

The infections in Essex and the surrounding area prompted the Ford government to hold back the towns of Kingsville and Leamington, Ont. from moving to Stage 2 of the province’s reopening plan.

Both communities are heavily tied to local agriculture and migrant workers frequently shop and spend their free time in them.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said that one farm medical staff visited in that area over the weekend had 450 workers, and roughly 175 of them tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’re going to make sure we do everything in our power to resolve these cases as quickly as possible,” Ford said, adding inspections of farms would continue and testing would begin of some agricultural operations in Niagara as well.

The province also reported seven more deaths caused by the virus, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 2,665.

Only 89 patients recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours, meaning Ontario’s active case count rose sharply Monday from 1,889 to 2,050.

Peel Region accounted for half of the 80 cases outside Windsor-Essex, while Toronto Public Health revised its case count down by four cases, blaming the change on duplicate entries in its case management system.

Provincial labs turned around 27,127 tests in the last 24 hours, with a further 16,701 specimens under investigation.

The number of people admitted to hospital for treatment of COVID-19 symptoms rose to 232 on Monday, up from 214 on Sunday.

The number of people admitted to ICUs across Ontario fell by five to 46, while the number of people breathing with the help of a ventilator rose by one to 36.