High River Cargill plant back on Alberta COVID-19 outbreak list

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“We continue to learn how to help slow the spread of the virus and are working with AHS to add safety measures as they become available to safeguard our valued coworkers,” Sullivan said.

“We also continue to work closely with health officials to ensure effective prevention, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed within our facilities and beyond.”

About 2,000 employees work at the High River Cargill plant.

Alberta’s meat industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with high-profile outbreaks taking a toll on a number of plants last spring.

As cases mounted at Cargill in April 2020, the company pressed pause on operations for two weeks to get case counts under control.

An outbreak at a JBS meat-packing plant in Brooks the same spring saw more than 650 workers test positive. At one point, more than a quarter of Alberta’s total COVID-19 infections were linked to the two facilities.

Most recently, an outbreak at the Red Deer pork slaughterhouse owned by Quebec-based Olymel has infected more than 150 workers and claimed the life of one, a man in his 30s.

Speaking to Postmedia Friday, the head of the union which represents all three meat-processing plants said the circumstances that lead to COVID-19 spread is the same at each site. He said the initial outbreak at Cargill showed it is essential to halt operations at worksites to prevent the virus from spreading.

“If these are essential linkages in our food supply, you’d think we would have learned something from the Cargill experience,” said United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 president Thomas Hesse.

“We’ve now learned that lockdowns are appropriate in society. Why haven’t we learned that sometimes, lockdowns are appropriate in workplaces?”


Twitter: @jasonfherring

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