High River Cargill meat plant under second COVID-19 outbreak

Click to play video: 'Family complaint triggers RCMP investigation into COVID-19 death of Cargill worker' Family complaint triggers RCMP investigation into COVID-19 death of Cargill worker
A heartbroken High River family has formally asked authorities to launch a criminal investigation into the death of their father. He was one of the three COVID-19 deaths linked to the Cargill meat-processing plant. As Jill Croteau reports, this is the first case involving a workplace fatality caused by COVID-19 – Jan 11, 2021

Alberta Health confirmed Saturday that the Cargill meat-processing plant in High River is under a COVID-19 outbreak once again.

There are 11 cases linked to the outbreak, with seven active and four recovered.

Read more: Alberta adds 348 new cases of COVID-19 Saturday, 12 deaths as active cases continue downward trend

This is Cargill’s second outbreak, according to Alberta Health spokesperson Tom McMillan, who said it was declared on Dec. 16, 2020. Outbreaks at food-manufacturing facilities are listed when there are five or more cases — a threshold that McMillan said was reached on Tuesday.

Cargill media relations director Daniel Sullivan said employee safety is top priority — 2,000 people work at the High River plant.

“As the High River community continues to experience a rise in case count, employees at our facility have recently tested positive for COVID-19. They are in isolation and receiving appropriate medical care and support,” he said.

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Read more: ‘A tragedy in every sense’: Union wants Red Deer pork plant shut down after worker dies of COVID-19

“We continue to learn how to help slow the spread of the virus and are working with Alberta Health Services to add safety measures as they become available to safeguard our valued co-workers,” he added, explaining that the company is working with officials to “ensure effective prevention, cleaning and quarantine protocols are followed within our facilities and beyond.”

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Deaths linked to Cargill

The High River Cargill plant shut down for two weeks in April 2020 because of an outbreak that initially affected 350 of its 2,200 workers. Eventually, nearly half the workers contracted the novel coronavirus and two employees died as a result of the first outbreak.

Many of those infected were people who had come to Canada looking for a better life.

Read more: Widow and children of Cargill worker who died from COVID-19 share heartbreak

Benito Quesada, a 51-year-old from Mexico who was described as a quiet, gentle and humble man, was a union shop steward at the Cargill plant.

“He always told me how proud he was for having been able to bring his family to Canada,” said Michael Hughes of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401.

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Read more: Widower of Cargill worker shares his loss after losing wife to COVID-19

Hiep Bui worked at the plant for 23 years. The 67-year-old met her husband on a refugee boat when they both fled the Vietnam War.

“I just want everyone to remember my wife… was a wonderful lady, very generous and very compassionate,” Nga Nguyen, her husband, said at the time.

– With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone and Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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