January 10, 2022


Cargill meat plant in Alberta, Canada, hit by fresh COVID-19 cases


 

A Cargill meat-processing plant located near High River, Alberta, Canada, is facing at least 45 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the union that represents its workers.


Tom Hesse, UFCW Local 401 president, said it's likely that the actual cases at the plant far outpace that number, given word he's received of high absentee rates and the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant.


The union sent a letter to Cargill on January 6, requesting responses to the following: whether the company had completed an independent ventilation and air quality assessment; whether the company was providing employees with suitable masks; whether the company has adjusted its approach to sick pay; and whether rapid tests are available.


Hesse said he has yet to receive a response to the letter.


Cargill spokesperson Daniel Sullivan previously told The Canadian Press that their production capacity has been unaffected during the Omicron wave.


Sullivan added that case numbers at the company's facility "tend to ebb and flow with community numbers."


An outbreak in 2020 saw at least 950 staff at the facility — nearly half its workforce — test positive.


Another outbreak was called early last year, prior to the emergence of the Omicron variant, that resulted in dozens of cases.


Later in 2021, an on-site clinic was rolled out to immunise more than 2,000 workers at the plant.


There is no mandatory vaccination policy at Cargill. Hesse said uptake for vaccinations was in excess of 85%.


"But those were the initial doses. I have no figures on booster shots, and Cargill has not yet responded to my letter on whether or not they plan to have booster shot clinics at the site," he said.


The plant processes about up to 4,500 head of cattle per day, representing a third of Canada's beef.


- CBC