Inspectors union calls for meat plant north of Calgary under COVID-19 outbreak to be closed
CALGARY -- An outbreak of COVID-19 cases at Harmony Beef, in Balzac, Alta. is leading to calls from the federal food inspectors union to close the plant.
As of Tuesday, 36 coronavirus cases have been linked to the plant. The first case was confirmed March 18 and an outbreak was declared March 26.
The union representing the inspectors is calling on Harmony Beef and any other meat processing facility in Canada with coronavirus cases to be closed.
"We’re calling for a shutdown for 14 days to provide that incubation period so that when the plant reopens we can be more assured that the folks going back in there are not COVID-19 positive," said Fabian Murphy, president of the Agriculture Union.
Production at the family-owned facility was temporarily halted in March, when the Canada Food Inspection Agency wouldn’t allow inspectors into the facility.
A statement from Harmony Beef indicates the company is aware of a total of 25 employee cases and only one within the "first five days of May."
It said "almost all cases were asymptomatic," there have been "no hospitalizations", adding steps have been taken to implement plant-wide testing of all employees.
The statement also includes a list of safety precautions being taken, including providing personal protective equipment, including surgical masks to employees each day, increasing sanitizing efforts, installing dividers, staggering shifts and limiting car-pooling.
Alberta Health Services has provided both on and offsite assistance and support to CFIA and Harmony Beef regarding social distancing, disinfection and physical separation.