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Fort Macleod meat plant closing temporarily after COVID-19 case, town worried about spread

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Another meat packing plant in Alberta has been affected by a positive test of COVID-19. Bouvry Exports in Fort Macleod has updated their plans moving forward, but some residents are worried about potential spread. Eloise Therien has the story. – May 1, 2020

Another meat processing plant in Alberta has been affected by COVID-19, with one employee at Bouvry Exports testing positive earlier this week.

Bouvry Exports processes a variety of meats, including beef, bison, elk, and horse. Its location just off Highway 3 near Fort Macleod, Alta. processes approximately 1,000 animals each week.

After Global News confirmed the positive case on April 30, residents of the small town voiced concern over a potential spread, not unlike those seen in Brooks and High River.

READ MORE: Employee at Fort Macleod processing plant tests positive for COVID-19

 

“We’re in for big trouble in town and our seniors home, where spouses of some work and businesses are all intertwined,” Facebook user Patsy Rigeaux wrote.

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In response to the worries, Mayor Brent Feyder reassured residents the proper processes have been in place for as long as they’ve needed to be.

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“Our seniors home has been very proactive, they’ve locked it out to visitors long before they were required to,” he said.

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Others on Facebook wrote that they would be driving into Lethbridge for their shopping needs, a decision Feyder said is not necessary.

“I think those fears, in my mind, are unwarranted,” he said. “The town has been quite active in ensuring that we are staying on top of this together.”

Feyder added the procedures in place at grocery stores in town are no different to the ones in Lethbridge — two-metre markers, customer limits, and plexiglass to separate employees and customers.

READ MORE: Residents returning after Fort McMurray flooding must be cautious amid COVID-19 pandemic

As for the plant itself, Occupational Health and Safety conducted a second in-person inspection Thursday, alongside Alberta Health Services and the Canada Food Inspection Agency.

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They provided Global News with the following information:

  • OHS did an on-site inspection of the Bouvry Exports meat processing plant in Fort Macleod on April 30.
  • Alberta Health Services, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and employer and worker representatives participated in the inspection.
  • OHS issued an order to the employer to produce documents by May 1 related to managing COVID-19 hazards. OHS will review the documents and further orders may be issued if required.
  • OHS issued an order requiring worker training for using respiratory protective equipment with a compliance date of May 4.
  • OHS issued an order to convene a work site health and safety committee with a compliance date of May 6.
  • The OHS orders are compliance orders and not stop work orders.

Elliot Bouvry, director of operations at the plant, said the facility has decided it will be shutting down for one week starting on May 4.

He also said around 35 of Bouvry’s 150 employees chose not to come to work Friday.

The plant is slated to reopen with enhanced safety measures in place, including introducing a second shift to support physical distancing and requiring every employee to wear a reusable mask.