2 people who work at Syncrude Mildred Lake site test positive for COVID-19

A highway loops around a tailings pond at the Syncrude facility as seen from a helicopter tour of the oil sands near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 10, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Two individuals who work at Syncrude’s Mildred Lake site tested positive for COVID-19, the company confirmed.

A spokesperson said one case involves an employee and the other a contractor.

Will Gibson said in the first case, the employee tested positive after developing symptoms during days off (the shift is six days on, six days off). Gibson said the employee followed all the proper health protocols, including timely reporting and not coming into work when feeling sick.

READ MORE: Oil and gas companies taking steps to keep employees safe from COVID-19

He said the employee self-isolated and had testing done that confirmed the virus.

On their days off, the person was with someone that was later considered a “presumptive COVID-19 case.”

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Gibson said Alberta Health Services advised Syncrude that this case does not post a risk to the company or its workforce.

In the second case, AHS informed Syncrude last Wednesday that a contract worker tested positive for COVID-19. Gibson said the company started tracing potential close contacts at work and ordered them to self-isolate and follow guidelines from AHS.

The company also notified anyone of potential risk and Syncrude’s chief medical officer is working with AHS to do contact tracing.

READ MORE: Alberta COVID-19 cases pass 3,000 while meat plant-related cases reach 478

Alberta Health confirmed the two cases on Monday.

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“As soon as a test is positive, local health officials take immediate action to protect the health of everyone involved and prevent the virus from spreading,” spokesperson Tom McMillan explained.

“They immediately isolate the individual and begin contact tracing to determine anyone who may have been exposed to the virus. Anyone at risk of being exposed is directly contacted by AHS and required to self-isolate. Anyone who has not been contacted is not at risk.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Where Alberta’s COVID-19 outbreaks are

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He added that Mildred Lake is not considered to be an outbreak. The only confirmed outbreak at an Alberta oilsands facility is the Kearl Lake site.

Gibson said Syncrude only has critical staff working on-site, meaning there’s thousands less people at the site than there were before the pandemic.

He added that the company takes “emergency preparedness very seriously” and developed a plan for COVID-19 based on information from other pandemics like SARS and H1N1.

READ MORE: 9 additional COVID-19 cases confirmed at Kearl Lake oil sands facility

Syncrude implemented protocols like temperature monitoring, hand-washing, physical distancing measures and increased cleaning at work sites.

“Our thoughts are with these workers and their families as they deal with this illness and we wish them a speedy recovery,” Gibson said.

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— With files from Global’s Phil Heidenreich