By Thomas I. Likness
EBC Edmonton Bureau
EDMONTON (Eagle News) — A southern Alberta meat processing plant that produces more than a third of Canada’s beef is set to reopen Monday after being shuttered for 14 days because of a COVID-19 outbreak.
The plant produces more than one-third of Canada’s beef supply and employs about 2,000 workers. About half of the staff is from High River’s Filipino community with many of them are temporary foreign workers.
“We look forward to welcoming our employees back and are focused on our ongoing commitment to safety,” Cargill’s North American lead Jon Nash said in a statement. “We know being an essential worker is challenging and we thank our team for working so hard to deliver food for local families, access to markets for ranchers and products for our customers’ shelves.”
The company has been working with Alberta Health Services to come up measure to keep workers safe.
Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said she has been assured the company has made all measures to prevent the spread of infection are in place.
“Alberta Health Services has been on site multiple times to ensure that they are aware of the restrictions that are in place,” said Hinshaw. “I think that the plant site, itself, has been fully cleaned.”
Hinshaw said her department has also reached out to workers.
“Alberta Health Services has been working very, very hard to phone every single worker at the Cargill plant to make sure that they have the information that they need about the practices that will keep them safe,” she said.
Hinshaw added, public health officials are working with employees to come up with alternatives to carpooling to get to work.
She said to date there have been 821 cases of coronavirus confirmed at the plant. One worker died from the infection. At the J-B-S beef plant in Brooks, also in southern Alberta, 276 people have been infected and one has died.
(Eagle News Service)