Quebec pork processing plant grapples with COVID-19 outbreak, union seeks temporary closure

In this March 2020 file photo, an Olymel sign is seen outside a facility in Anjou. So far, 65 workers at an Olymel owned plant in the Beauce region have tested positive for COVID-19. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press

An Olymel-owned pork processing plant in Quebec’s Beauce region remains open, despite an outbreak of COVID-19 at the facility.

So far, 62 workers at the plant have tested positive for COVID-19, regional public health officials said Thursday.

The company said one worker died Wednesday after testing positive the day before.

Mireille Gaudreau, a spokeswoman for the regional health authority, said in an email that health officials are trying to determine whether the worker’s death was caused by the coronavirus.

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She said 159 workers were tested on-site and about 15 other people were identified as possible contacts and are isolating for 14 days.

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The Olymel Vallée-Jonction union, which represents 1,050 workers at the plant, has called for the facility to be temporarily closed.

It said in a statement Wednesday that sanitary measures put in place during the first wave of the pandemic had been relaxed over the summer.

Olymel spokesman Richard Vigneault, however, said public health officials have not recommended the plant, located 55 kilometres southeast of Quebec City, be closed.

In an interview Thursday, Vigneault said workers are being encouraged to get tested and that the company is following public health directives.

— With files from the Canadian Press’ Jacob Serebrin

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