To date 57 employees have tested positive, and 37 cases are still active
By Jackie Clark
Public health officials, workers union representatives, and Cargill leadership are dealing with an outbreak of COVID-19 among the staff at a Cargill meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive in Guelph, Ont.
“As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of Cargill employees, we have decided to temporarily idle our Guelph protein facility,” John Nash, North American leader of Cargill Protein, said in a Dec. 17 statement.
“This was a difficult decision for our team who are operating an essential service and are committed to delivering food for local families and access to markets for farmers and ranchers. We care deeply about our employees and their safety. They are everyday heroes on the frontlines of our food system. Our focus now is on continuing to keep our employees safe and getting our facility back to normal operations,” Nash said in the statement. “To prevent food waste, we will process the nearly 1.55 million meals-worth of protein currently in our facility. We greatly appreciate our employees who are working to complete this effort.”
During the closure “our employees will be paid the 36 hours per week as outlined in our collective agreement,” April Nelson, a spokesperson for Cargill, said in an e-mail statement to Farms.com. “Cargill is encouraging employees to be tested. We have also stressed the importance of social distancing for those across the community who have been impacted by the virus. We have encouraged any employees who are sick or have been exposed to anyone with COVID-19 in the last 14 days to stay home.”
A total of 57 employees at the facility have tested positive, with 37 cases still active as of Dec. 16, Danny Williamson, a spokesperson for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health, told Farms.com.
One other worker also tested positive from a second Cargill facility in Guelph on Watson Parkway, CBC reported on Dec. 13.
However, “the current outbreak is limited to one section of the plant at the Dunlop facility. Any other cases wouldn’t be associated with the outbreak unless an epidemiological link was established,” Williamson explained.
51 additional, non-positive staff from the Dunlop location are self-isolating, he said. Approximately “200 staff in the affected section of the plant have been tested.”
Public health officials are working with the company to provide additional measures to address the outbreak. This includes the testing of employees in the impacted area, which health officials completed Dec. 14 and 15.
“A complete infection prevention and control (IPAC) inspection of the plant was completed late last week,” explained Williamson. Officials are handling “case management and contact tracing of all positive cases.”
Cargill is “working closely with local health officials to ensure appropriate prevention, testing, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed within our facilities,” Nelson explained. “Safety measures like temperature testing, enhanced cleaning and sanitizing, face coverings, screening between employee stations, prohibiting visitors, adopting social distancing practices where possible, offering staggered breaks and reducing carpooling have been in place for months and will remain in place when we resume full operations.”
Courtney Hale\E+ photo