The new coronavirus is blamed for six other deaths in Alberta as the number of COVID-19 cases, including in provincial meat plants, continues to rise.
On Wednesday, the Chief Medical Officer of Health of Alberta again raised the outbreaks at the Cargill, JBS and Harmony meat plants, the same day as a worker at the Cargill meat plant in High River said that her father died of COVID-19. It is not yet known how he contracted COVID-19.
The Alberta Department of Health initially confirmed the death and then stated that it was not sure whether it was related to COVID-19, but the son of the man said the death was imputed to illness.
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“I know there are a lot of questions,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw of the serious outbreaks in Alberta’s meat plants.
“We have implemented the lessons learned at Cargill.”
READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cargill Alberta meat plant reopens amid ongoing union talks
On Wednesday, 946 workers at the Cargill plant in High River were positive for COVID-19, 798 have since recovered. At JBS Foods in Brooks, there are now 566 confirmed cases among workers and 434 have recovered. At the Harmony plant near Calgary, 38 workers have now tested positive for COVID-19 and 12 have recovered.
Hinshaw told reporters that she knew there were concerns about Cargill’s decision to reopen its High River plant earlier this month. She said that all meat facilities in Alberta have implemented safety controls after consulting with her, Occupational Health and Safety, Alberta Health Services and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
“I want to be clear that we are monitoring each of these epidemics very closely, working with operators to contain the spread and ensuring that all public health measures are applied and taken seriously,” she said. declared.
“We are also making sure to help workers contain the spread in all settings, because focusing on one workplace will not stop an epidemic.”
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At the Cargill plant in particular, Hinshaw said the company requires the wearing of face masks, improving cleaning and hygiene protocols, performing worker temperature checks, and improving the ability to practice social distancing by breathtaking breaks and other measures.
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“A dedicated Alberta health services task force is working around the clock to respond to each COVID-19 outbreak,” the Alberta government said in a statement on Wednesday. “Alberta Health Services and Occupational Health and Safety regularly visit facilities to ensure controls are implemented and to provide ongoing advice and support to workers and employers.”
The government added that other measures taken in meat factories limit the number of passengers to two in each vehicle entering the factory, installing additional sinks and disinfection stations, reconfiguring parts of the factories to facilitate distancing social and updating training and security procedures.
“Alberta health services have conducted three inspections at Cargill, four at JBS and two at Harmony Beef,” said the government. “AHS also hosted virtual town halls with employees at several facilities and provided information to employees in English and translated into several languages.”
For workers at the Cargill plant in High River and the JBS plant in Brooks, testing is available to all workers, including those with no symptoms, to limit the spread.
Cargill worker told Global News on Wednesday that his father, who came from the Philippines, died after contracting the new coronavirus and being admitted to hospital, said the union that represents workers at the nearby slaughterhouse. from High River.
“We join the community who are supporting the worker right now to express our condolences, but we also want to respect his space as he complains of this terrible loss,” said Michael Hughes, local spokesperson. 401 of United Food and Commercial Workers.
Cargill issued a statement.
“We know that COVID-19 has deeply impacted our community and our factory. Our deepest condolences go out to the family, ”he said.
Although it is not clear where the man contracted COVID-19, Alberta Health also said that it was unable to confirm that it was a death related to COVID-19.
The Cargill factory epidemic has already claimed the lives of 67-year-old Hiep Bui, who has worked at the factory for 23 years.
The plant was closed on April 20 as the contagion spread, but reopened on Monday.
The factory workers’ union has said that if most workers seem to be going back to work, they think it’s only because they need the money.
“People are under pressure,” said Hughes. “We think it makes a lot of people decide to get paid.”
Hughes said the union received messages from some workers refusing to return.
Hughes said that absenteeism at JBS continues to increase.
“We have … proactively identified and adopted over 100 preventive measures at our Brooks plant to ensure a safe work environment for our team members,” said JBS Canada spokesperson Rob Meijer.
“We continue to closely monitor COVID-19 testing and our risk mitigation on a daily basis, and we will make all future decisions based on the best available data and the advice of our team members and public health officials.”
Global cases of COVID-19 in Alberta
As of Wednesday afternoon, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Alberta was 5,963. Of this number, 3,552 have seen people recover. A total of 730 cases are suspected to be of community origin.
There were 4,003 cases in the Calgary area, 1,111 cases in the southern area, 503 cases in the Edmonton area, 229 cases in the northern area, 91 cases in the central area and 26 cases where the n area has not yet been confirmed.
Of the 112 COVID-19 deaths in Alberta, 79 occurred in the Calgary area, 15 in the northern area, 12 in the Edmonton area, five in the southern area and one in the central area.
There were 632 cases and 82 confirmed deaths in continuing care facilities.
“I want to express my sincere condolences to these families,” said Hinshaw of the last six deaths on Wednesday.
“Our thoughts are with all those who loved these people and all those who mourn their loss today.
COVID-19 in Alberta: Investigation of Meat Plant Outbreaks + Tests to Find Early Cases
“Unfortunately, this virus is like a forest fire. Once it has started to spread, there is no simple or immediate way to extinguish it. It takes time and hard work and proven practices that slow the spread. We are progressing. We will win this fight. “
Alberta Health said Wednesday afternoon that 170,509 COVID-19 tests had been completed in the province. In the past 24 hours, 3,494 tests have been performed.
The ABTraceTogether app, a voluntary app to improve contact tracking in Alberta as the province gradually reopens its economy, had 135,462 registered users Wednesday afternoon.
–With Canadian Press files Bill Graveland and Dean Bennett
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