Alberta Health reported a new COVID-19 outbreak at a Cargill meat-processing plant in Calgary Friday, the company’s second Alberta outbreak after more than 1,500 cases of the novel coronavirus and three deaths were linked to Cargill’s High River plant.
There are five confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the newly reported outbreak at Cargill Case Ready, a meat-processing plant in northeast Calgary that takes meat product from the High River plant and packages it for sale in grocery stores.
Cargill Case Ready has about 400 employees who work in an assembly-line environment. The company says the workers who have tested positive are recovering in isolation and were not in regular contact with one another at work, with no workplace spread suspected.
“We continue to learn how to help slow the spread of the virus and are working with Alberta Health Services (AHS) to add safety measures as they become available to safeguard our valued co-workers,” said Cargill spokesman Daniel Sullivan in a statement to Postmedia.
With AHS help, Cargill will offer testing to all plant employees in the upcoming days, Sullivan said.
Cargill’s High River plant was the site of the largest single-facility outbreak in Canada, with 950 of the plant’s approximately 2,200 staff testing positive for the coronavirus. Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro conceded in June that
at the site, while
alleged negligence from the company in dealing with the outbreak.
Thomas Hesse is the president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 401, the union that represents workers at Alberta’s Cargill plants. He said he was hopeful that Cargill had learned from the previous outbreak and would be more successful in containing this one.
“A lot of employers say the right thing, talk about health and safety first. You see it all over websites, in mission statements, but we’ll see if that’s what they really believe or not,” Hesse said. “(These outbreaks) have stigmatized Cargill, nationally if not internationally.”
Hesse said that if Cargill did not adequately address the outbreak, he would call on the company and province to shut down the Calgary plant,
as the High River outbreak worsened.
He added that the Cargill Case Ready facility doesn’t share some of the issues that accelerated the High River outbreak, with employees in Calgary given proper personal protective equipment, practising social distancing and having staggered start times.
“This plant in terms of the pre-existing conditions was better,” Hesse said. “But the question is what Cargill does now.”
Alberta also announced two other new Calgary outbreaks Friday. One is at Fledglings Educare Centre, where two staff and three children were infected with COVID-19. Two of the children have now recovered. As well, an outbreak at a private gathering is linked to 13 cases, nine of which remain active.
Also Friday, Alberta reported 84 new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the province’s total to 12,053.
The new cases came from about 8,200 tests, a one per cent positive rate. More than 800,000 tests have now been conducted in Alberta.
Both active cases and hospitalization rates stayed stagnant from Thursday. There are 1,036 active coronavirus cases in Alberta, while 48 Albertans remain in hospital with the virus, including 13 receiving treatment in intensive-care units.
One new death from COVID-19 in Alberta, a woman in her 60s from the AHS South zone, was reported Friday, bringing the province’s total to 221.
Elsewhere Friday, Calgary’s public and Catholic school boards each announced that they were
in schools. Previously, Alberta Education only required students in Grades 4 to 12 to wear masks.
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