Last updated August 17, 2020
AHS continues to work with Occupational Health & Safety (Government of Alberta) the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), and Alberta Health (AH), to ensure that outbreaks and incidents of COVID-19 illness in meat packing facilities are being addressed, and workers, families and communities, protected.
AHS previously established a dedicated Task Force to respond to COVID-19 outbreaks associated with meat packing facilities, both at the workplaces themselves, and in the communities surrounding these facilities.
It is important to note that there is currently no scientific evidence that food or food packaging is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.
We are all in this together. COVID-19 is an international pandemic, and no one is to blame. AHS is working with partners, including Primary Care Networks (PCNs), immigrant organizations, and housing and social service organizations to ensure the needs of those impacted are met, and to address any concerns that a community may be experiencing with regards to discrimination against individuals. Discrimination is unacceptable and does not reflect the reality of any COVID-19 outbreak.
In August 2020 an outbreak was declared at the Cargill case-ready meat packaging facility in Calgary. COVID-19 outbreaks were previously declared in March and April, 2020, at the Cargill meat processing plant in High River, at the at the Harmony Beef Company meat processing facility in Balzac, and the JBS Canada meat processing facility in Brooks. Alberta Health Services (AHS) continues to work closely with these facilities, Occupational Health & Safety (Government of Alberta) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) since the initial COVID-19 cases were identified at these facilities. A number of measures have been put into place to help stop the spread of COVID-19 among employees at Cargill, Harmony Beef Company and JBS Canada.
Every case of COVID-19 identified in Alberta is immediately followed by contact tracing work done by AHS. This same is true for all outbreak-associated cases. AHS identifies and connects with all confirmed/probable COVID-19 cases and their close contacts.
AHS and PCNs worked together not only to identify those impacted by these outbreaks and their related needs for assistance in self-isolation, but to also provide:
The CFIA is responsible for food safety inspection in these meat processing facilities and AHS has provided guidance to the companies regarding physical distancing, disinfection and physical separation. AHS and the CFIA continue to work closely together along with Cargill, Harmony Beef and JBS Canada and the employee unions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
It is important to ensure that employees and their families have the information they need, so they can take the necessary steps to keep themselves and their families safe. AHS has connected directly with workers, sharing information about how they can protect themselves and their families.
An AHS Medical Officer of Health hosted virtual Town Hall meetings to answer facility staff questions related to COVID-19. We know that these facilities employ workers whose first language is not English. Our Town Hall communication sessions involve translation services to ensure can ask questions and receive responses in their first language.
Recommendations to prepare for COVID-19 in the workplace.