COVID-19 outbreak declared at Canada Post plant in Calgary

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WATCH: Alberta health officials declared a COVID-19 outbreak at a Canada Post processing plant in north Calgary on Friday – May 9, 2020

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, declared a COVID-19 outbreak at the Canada Post processing plant in north Calgary on Friday.

READ MORE: Dr. Hinshaw encouraged by declining COVID-19 hospitalizations in Alberta

The Crown corporation said that in the last month, it informed Alberta Health Services about six positive cases at the main sorting facility located at 1100 49 Ave. N.E.

“These occurred at separate times over a three-week period dating back to April 20,” Canada Post spokesperson Jon Hamilton said in a statement to Global News.

“Some of the employees have not been in the building since early April. In the most recent case, the employee hadn’t been in the building since May 5.”

Canada Post said it was told by AHS that the provincial health authority “does not believe these cases occurred in the workplace but rather that exposure occurred externally and all cases were unrelated,” adding that employees were asymptomatic at work.

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A file image of a Canada Post truck. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

An outbreak is declared when there are five or more cases at a facility, Alberta Health said.

“It requires evidence of epidemiologically linked transmission of five or more COVID-19 cases with a common exposure, such as attending the same facility, community gathering, dinner party or workplace,” said Tom McMillan, assistant director of communications at Alberta Health.

At her media briefing, Hinshaw explained how outbreaks are handled.

“What happens in any kind of worksite outbreak is that the cases are identified and they’re asked questions about when they started to have symptoms, and then the contact tracers determine what the time frame was where they could have passed that infection to others,” Hinshaw explained.

“Anyone who’s a close contact of that person would be required to be home in self-isolation for 14 days from that point of last contact.”

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Canada Post safety measures

Canada Post said it has performed sanitation in the plant as recently as last weekend, “on top of the more frequent cleaning occurring in the facility as part of the enhanced cleaning processes we put in place in March.”

It said it has implemented safety measures, including adding sanitization stations and providing personal protective equipment.

Delivery vehicles are seen at Canada Post’s main plant in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, May 9, 2020, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Canada Post said affected employees are placed on paid leave and any employee identified through contact tracing will remain at home on leave awaiting further instruction from public health authorities.

“We will continue to work closely with [AHS], support the difficult work they are doing and follow their guidance,” Hamilton said.
“Just last week, officials from [AHS] toured our Calgary facility to see the measures we are taking to keep employees safe and were pleased with our proactive approach to keep any risk to a minimum.”
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READ MORE: Inmate at Calgary Remand Centre tests positive for COVID-19: Hinshaw

As of Friday, there were 1,883 active COVID-19 cases in the province, according to Alberta Health.

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