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Coronavirus: Another Cargill meat plant set to close due to COVID-19 outbreak

Cargill meat processing plant set to shut down as COVID-19 infections spread
WATCH: The Cargill meat processing plant in Chambly, Quebec, is living through it's own COVID-19 crisis, as more than 10 per cent of the workforce there has fallen ill with the virus. As Global's Anne Leclair explains, the plant is preparing to shut down for a full cleaning and disinfection.

A meat-processing plant in Chambly, Que., will be closing this week after an outbreak of COVID-19 was reported among its employees.

According to the plant’s owner Cargill, 65 employees — or 13 per cent of its local workforce —  have tested positive for novel coronavirus.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Cargill, union to have hearing with Alberta Labour Relations Board next week

“Cargill is working in close partnership with local health officials and the union to test our employees as soon as possible,” a Cargill spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Global News.

The spokesperson said the “idling process” at the facility has already begun with employees working through materials on hand to avoid food waste.

The plant is expected to close sometime this week, depending on how long the idling process takes.

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Employees return to work at Cargill meat-packing plant
Employees return to work at Cargill meat-packing plant

“As we continue to focus on safety, we want to emphasize that employees are required to have had no symptoms of illness and not had contact with anyone with the COVID-19 virus for 14 days,” the statement reads.

READ MORE: Hinshaw says Alberta Health has ‘implemented lessons learned at Cargill;’ meat plant worker’s father dies

According to Cargill, the company is providing up to 80 hours of paid leave to employees requiring time off to deal with a COVID-19 illness, and employees will be paid up to 36 hours while the plant is idle.

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“This is being provided in addition to standard benefits, as we show our gratitude to our valued employees,” the statement said.

COVID-19 in Alberta: Meat plant outbreak investigations + testing to find early cases
COVID-19 in Alberta: Meat plant outbreak investigations + testing to find early cases

A spokeswoman for the union representing the workers — the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) — told the Canadian Press that the plant in Chambly, Que., will close as of Wednesday so all its workers can be tested.

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Roxanne Larouche says 171 workers were sent home last week as a preventative measure, and 50 of them have tested negative.

She says the workplace had implemented safety measures for employees, including installing plexiglass between workers where possible, staggering arrival and departure times and providing masks, visors and safety glasses.

READ MORE: COVID-19 in Alberta: Meat plant outbreak investigations + testing to find early cases

Word of the plant closure comes just a month after another Cargill facility in Alberta shuttered, with more than 900 of its employees having tested positive for coronavirus.

That beef-packing plant located in High River has since reopened.

–With files from The Canadian Press