Six more COVID-19 cases reported at Manitoba Maple Leaf plant: union
Maple Leaf Foods headquarters, Mississauga, Ont., Nov. 5, 2013. (THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Stephen C. Host )
WINNIPEG -- Six more workers at a Maple Leaf plant in Brandon, Man., have tested positive for COVID-19, the company's president and CEO said in a statement on Friday.
“Ten cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed among Team Members at our pork plant in Brandon, Manitoba. However, there is no evidence of spread within the plant. All cases have been investigated and determine to be acquired in the community," said Michael McCain.
The employees with positive cases were confirmed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 and provincial health officials on Friday. CTV News previously reported one case on Wednesday and another three on Thursday.
The four employees announced on Friday by health officials and the union are not direct production employees who work with the slaughtering of the animals or the processing departments.
It's not known what the other two employees' roles are that were announced by the company.
According to the UFCW Local 832 president Jeff Traeger, the first four employees are in auxiliary-type of departments.
“So they’re not directly working with the product,” he said, noting the last time they went into work was Aug. 1.
In a statement, the union said it’s renewing its call on Maple Leaf to halt production at this plant until the situation is under control.
On Thursday, Traeger sent a letter to the province’s minister of health, calling for a public health order to shut down the plant and to have it inspected by the public health department.
Manitoba Public Health, Workplace Safety & Health toured the facility on Thursday afternoon. The union is now awaiting the results.
At a news conference on Friday, Premier Brian Pallister said the progress the province has seen thus far during the pandemic is due to two things: following the fundamentals and respecting the advice of health experts. He added that Dr. Brent Roussin, the chief provincial public health officer, can provide more information about the province’s rationale as to why it makes the decisions it does.
“I would simply advise Manitobans to understand that we have people who devote their lives and their careers to studying proper health policy and we’re following their recommendations with some success, so we’ll continue to do that,” the premier said.
Pallister said the province will step in to shut down the plant or take other measures only when health officials recommend it.
Traeger said as of Thursday there were 40 to 50 workers at the plant who were waiting on their COVID-19 test results, but even more, have now gone to get checked.
“Yesterday with the announcement of the three new cases, we know that a large number of our members decided to go get tested,” he said.
“We have no idea what number that is, but we do know that it’s a significantly large number that told us they were going to get tested.”
At a news conference on Friday, Roussin confirmed eight cases are connected to a business in Brandon. He said all of these cases seem to have contracted the virus from outside of the workplace.
“To be clear, there’s no evidence of workplace transmission at this time,” he said.
“The cases are currently self-isolating, contact tracing is well underway. The company has gone beyond public health recommendations and is having a larger number of workers (and) contacts self-isolate at this time. There has been a deep clean of the facility since the cases were last at work, all cases would have worn PPE during the infectious period while at work, and, as well, workers have been cohorted to reduce the risk.”
He said the situation is being closely monitored, and the government is in regular communication with the company.
Roussin added that a joint site inspection was conducted on Aug. 6, and no orders were issued.
“Any public health recommendations will be made on available information, future inspections, and from public health investigations,” he said.
Roussin said he hasn’t changed his opinion and doesn’t believe the plant should be shut down.
“It’s eight cases that happen to work there, it’s not eight cases that acquired it there,” he said.
“Not a single case acquired it there from our investigation.”
Roussin noted there is no evidence of inter-facility transmission, reassuring the province that the measures in place are effective.
“If we see inter-facility transmission, then that’s going to be a change in our review and we’ll have to address that,” he said.
- With files from CTV’s Charles Lefebvre.