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COVID-19 outbreak at Calgary recycling facility not affecting blue cart program at this point

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 outbreak at contractor facility not affecting blue cart service in Calgary' COVID-19 outbreak at contractor facility not affecting blue cart service in Calgary
Calgary emergency chief Tom Sampson says that a COVID-19 outbreak at the contractor facility that handles recycling isn't affecting blue cart pickup at this point. – May 12, 2020

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a the Cascades Recovery Recycling Facility in Calgary hasn’t impacted the city’s blue bin collection program at this point.

According to Calgary Emergency Management Agency chief Tom Sampson, an outbreak of three cases was first detected at the facility, and as of Tuesday, they were advised there are now more than a dozen cases.

Cascades said there were 16 positive cases among employees, the first of which were reported on April 28.

READ MORE: COVID-19 outbreak declared at Canada Post plant in Calgary

 

According to Alberta Health, there are 14 cases at the facility, one of which has recovered.

Alberta Health said it couldn’t confirm the additional two cases on Tuesday, adding “there can sometimes be a delay in the provincial reporting system, as we rely on the information entered by the health officials on the ground.”

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The company, which has operations across Canada, Europe and the U.S., said it has extensive COVID-19 prevention protocols in place and workers on the sorting lines have been provided with PPE.

Cascades said in addition to the 16 employees, 32 other employees have also been sent home to self-isolate. There are 125 total employees at the facility.

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The company also said its had “very few cases” anywhere else Cascades operates, and that Calgary is “a unique situation.”

With the number of people working at the facility, Sampson said this is a “significant outbreak.”

All of the city’s blue bin recycling collections are brought to the Cascades facility, a private operator, for sorting.

Recycling materials are sorted at the Cascades Cascades Recovery Recycling Facility in Calgary. Global News

Despite the outbreak, operations at the recycling facility are still ongoing, and the city’s Waste and Recycling Services department has been working closely with Cascades to monitor the situation, according to Sampson.

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“We know that it has the potential to affect the blue cart program and that could see a delay of a day or something like that, but at this point in time the program is operating,” Sampson said.

READ MORE: COVID-19 testing available to asymptomatic Calgarians working outside the home for one week

He said Cascades has told them they’ve done a deep clean of the facility and are working closely with Alberta Health Services to contain the outbreak.

“We’ve assessed and found no risk to our staff who are dropping [off] at the facility, we have a protocol for that,” Sampson said. “There’s no risk to the public of that outbreak going further, but of course we’re always concerned with our friends who are in business with us.”

Alberta Health Services is working with site managers to limit the spread, and has given advice on social distancing, cleaning, screening and other prevention measures.

“Asymptomatic employees are eligible for testing,” AHS said. “At this point, there is no broader risk to the public.”

To keep up with production, Cascades said it hired temporary employees to fill the gaps, adding the facility has been less productive than normal when it comes to sorting.

— With files from Global News’ Blake Lough

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