Alberta pork plant sees rise in COVID cases, one death, in recent weeks News Staff

RED DEER, Alta. — A company that operates a pork processing plant in central Alberta says a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility has grown to nearly 80 cases this weekend.

Richard Vigneault, a spokesman for Olymel, says there was an outbreak at the company’s plant in Red Deer in November, but it wasn’t until Jan. 20 that there was a significant rise in infections.

Vigneault says one person has died and employees were informed of the death on Jan. 28, but he says the company is still waiting on a report on the case and he won’t be commenting further on it now.

The union representing the 1,850 workers at the plant wrote a letter Friday to the facility’s manager, requesting Olymel temporarily shut down the plant for two weeks and pay workers during the time off.

Vigneault says Olymel has implemented measures to prevent the virus spread with help from provincial health officials, occupational health and safety officials and the union.

He says the company is very sorry to all the staff who have been affected.

“The fact is, no company can prevent an outbreak of some form or another during this pandemic,” Vigneault said in an interview Sunday from Montreal.

“We’re doing all the sanitary measures to bring this under control.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 president Thomas Hesse and secretary-treasurer Richelle Stewart said in their letter Friday that they want the company to treat the hazard the same as it did during an outbreak last March at its plant in Yamachiche, Que.

Olymel announced March 29 it would temporarily close its hog slaughter and cutting plant in Yamachiche for 14 days after nine plant employees tested positive for COVID-19. 

The closure gave employees the time to self-isolate at the recommendation of the public health department, and the plant resumed operations on April 14.

Vigneault said he wouldn’t comment on the union’s requests Sunday, but that he might have further word on Monday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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