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13 workers sent home after confirmed COVID-19 case at Red Deer meat-processing plant

FILE PHOTO: Canadian pork shoulders are being prepped on a butcher's counter at North Hill Meats on May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang

EDITOR’S NOTE: An Olymel spokesperson initially said the employee who tested positive was a man, but later clarified it was a female employee. This article has been corrected.

Thirteen employees were sent home as a precaution from the Olymel facility in Red Deer and urged to be tested for COVID-19 after one worker tested positive on Tuesday.

The employee was at work on Monday, Aug. 10 when she reported having symptoms, Olymel communications officer Richard Vigneault told Global News. She was immediately sent home and asked to be tested for COVID-19.

She was tested on Tuesday and on Thursday, her test result came back positive, the company said. She is now self-isolating and recovering at home.

Read more: 2 Alberta meat plants affected by COVID-19 make up 70% of Canada’s beef processing capabilities

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Olymel has protocols in place and public health authorities as well as Occupational Health and Safety were notified, Vigneault said. In addition, any other employee who may have been exposed to this case was sent home and asked to be tested as well.

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On Friday morning, a letter was sent to every employee that works at the Red Deer facility explaining the situation. There are 1,500 people working at the site.

As of Monday, 13 employees had been sent home. Vigneault said he wasn’t aware whether any of those individuals were experiencing symptoms.

Read more: JBS beef plant in Alberta returning to 2 shifts per day after COVID-19 outbreak

Olymel has had strict safety measures in place at the Red Deer site since March, including face shields, masks, barriers and physical distancing requirements, the company said.

It had not had a confirmed case of COVID-19 until last week, Vigneault added.

Read more: 1 death connected to Cargill meat plant in High River as plant ‘idles’ processes

The facility is not on Alberta Health’s list of outbreaks.

An Alberta Health spokesperson explained there must be evidence of transmission to five or more COVID-19 cases with common exposure in order for an outbreak to be declared.

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If an outbreak is declared, “all positive cases are isolated, aggressive contact tracing is underway, and health officials investigate possible sources of transmission and any epidemiological links,” Sherene Khaw, assistant communications director for Alberta Health, said. “Testing is offered to all symptomatic and asymptomatic staff in an outbreak setting.”

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