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Cargill plant shutdown does not mean COVID-19 risk is contained: High River mayor

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting High River
WATCH: High River Mayor Craig Snodrass joins Global News Morning Calgary live via Skype to discuss how the town of High River has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutting down of the Cargill meat-packing plant.

High River Mayor Craig Snodgrass is urging vigilance from southern Albertans against the spread of COVID-19.

He said that just because the meat plant is shut down, it does not mean the risk is going to go away.

“This isn’t just a Cargill issue; this is everybody. We’re all in this.

“Just because Cargill is shut down now, does not mean the problem is contained or isolated. We’re into it here,” Snodgrass said.

There has also been one death linked to the plant. The victim was a woman in her 60s who lived in Calgary and commuted to High River daily.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting High River
How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting High River

Another employee is in critical condition, according to Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401.

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Hesse said the man is in his 50s and worked at the Cargill plant, and came to Canada for a better life for himself and his family.

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“He is in a medically induced coma and is on a ventilator in a Calgary hospital,” Hesse said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Employee at Cargill plant died within days of feeling ill, union says another is critical

Snodgrass was speaking on Global News Morning Wednesday and said everyone needs to take the pandemic seriously.

“This is very serious. This pandemic is not a joke, not a hoax.

“It’s still a struggle for me to get through to people. We’re seeing now how fast this thing can spread and go haywire on you so you have to take this seriously,” he said.

Snodgrass said they have the resources in place, and have people in play, like doctors and support from Alberta Health Services, to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 but it’s up to the individual person.

READ MORE: Cargill meat plant temporarily closing amid COVID-19 outbreak

“It comes down to the individual level as to making sure you’re taking proper precautions and you’re taking responsibility for your actions,” he said.

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Snodgrass said he has been speaking with Cargill’s manager for the past two weeks on a daily basis, adding the impact on the plant impacts not only the town but Calgary as well, as many of the employees are from that city.

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“We know what happens there affects High River and affects Calgary… Most of the workers from Cargill live in Calgary so we are a small community.

“It was a great concern as to what’s happening and that’s when we started working with the doctors and everybody else to try to get the resources in High River and try to mitigate this as much as we can,” Snodgrass said.

Snodgrass said the town is working with agencies like the Alberta Health and Immigration Services between Calgary and High River to monitor the situation and continue communication and education for people to make sure they have the resources available.

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–With files from Jill Croteau