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Online petition calls for temporary shutdown of JBS meat plant in Brooks, Alberta

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WATCH ABOVE: An online petition is circulating that calls for the temporary shutdown of JBS Foods in Brooks, Alta. As Quinn Campbell reports, the petition already has more than 2,200 signatures – Apr 27, 2020

An outbreak of COVID-19 in the small Alberta city of Brooks has sparked a community-led petition urging the temporary shutdown of the JBS meatpacking plant.

Dozens of workers at that facility are among hundreds of people in Brooks that have tested positive for the novel coronavirus over the past couple of weeks.

In just four days, the online petition had garnered over 2,200 signatures by Monday afternoon.

“Our petition calls for support of the union of a temporary two-week closure just to get things in line, or at the very least get a non-partisan external inspection, because ultimately, it’s about workers’ safety, but not just workers’ safety, it’s about the community,” said Ryan Lok, the petition’s co-creator.

READ MORE: Worker from JBS meat packing plant near Brooks dies with COVID-19 test pending

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The petition says production at the plant is not conducive to physical-distancing and that masks and personal protective equipment provided are inadequate to protect against the spread of COVID-19.

“At the end of the day, we are looking out for the community and we just hope that those who are in power have a little more compassion, [and] look at it from a humanitarian perspective,” Lok said.

The mayor of Brooks said Monday he understands the concerns residents have about community transmission, but said no one has been able to clearly say if a closure at JBS would stop the spread.

“We are all speculating on what would happen if we closed the plant, and really, I’d rather deal with — [or] try to deal with — initiatives that allow us to move forward and to try to flatten out and try to not exponentially grow,” said Mayor Barry Morishita.

“I think the public health orders, if they were all followed by everyone to the letter, we wouldn’t have community spread.

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“I realize that there are some situations that aren’t afforded that luxury in terms of having space, but we’ve dealt with that by creating accommodations for people who can’t self-isolate.”

READ MORE: Union says staff at 2nd Alberta meat plant scared of COVID-19, not showing up to work

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The United Food And Commercial Workers union (UFCW) represents roughly 2,500 employees at the JBS plant and said the petition is echoing what it’s hearing from members and believes the plant should be closed.

“Workers in these plants are simply not inputs in the production line, they’re human beings,” said Michael Hughes, a senior communications representative for UFCW Local 401. “They are people’s family members and what we should be doing is putting their welfare and their health and safety before all else.”

JBS did not return Global News’ request for comment on the petition Monday.

As of April 27, the City of Brooks had recorded 581 cases of COVID-19.