BROOKS, ALTA. -- Officials with a beef production facility in Brooks, Alta., say a number of their employees have come down with COVID-19 and it has impacted production at the plant.

JBS Foods Canada, which operates the facility located approximately two hours southeast of Calgary, confirmed to CTV News via email that a number of its team members tested positive for the illness.

"We are providing support to those team members and their families, and we hope they all make a full and speedy recovery," said JBS's head of corporate affairs Cameron Pruett.

The company reported 67 cases of illness among workers Monday and Pruett noted that the "increased absenteeism" forced them to reduce production to just one shift.

JBS has not laid off any of its employees and there have been no walk offs over the working conditions either, he added.

"The food supply is a critical infrastructure industry and we have a special responsibility to maintain operations on behalf of the country. We take this responsibility seriously and are doing our best to safely provide food to the nation during a challenging time. We will endeavor to keep our facilities open, but we will not operate a facility if we do not believe it is safe or if absenteeism levels result in our inability to safely operate," Pruett said.

A number of measures have also been put in place at the Brooks facility including:

  • Temperature testing on all team members prior to entering the building through the use of hands-free thermometers and thermal imaging technology
  • Requiring all employees to wear face masks and providing masks to those that need them
  • Stepping up sanitation and disinfection efforts, including deep-cleaning on the entire facility
  • Staggering starts, shifts and breaks as well as increasing spacing in cafeterias, break and locker rooms for physical distancing purposes
  • Installing physical partitions on production lines
  • Dedicating staff to clean facilities continuously
  • Offering temporary leave to vulnerable populations along with full pay and benefits
  • Educating and encouraging workers to practice social distancing at home and in the community
  • Restricting access to the Brooks facility and not allowing any visitors

Pruett said any worker who is sick must stay home and the company is not forcing anyone to come to work or penalizing them for being absent for health reasons. He added JBS is also offering free virtual doctor visits for all of its employees.

"JBS Food Canada is committed to playing our part in seeing our communities and our country through this challenging time."

Cargill Protein, a meat production facility in High River, Alta. was temporarily shut down Monday.

There are no plans to put the same measures into place at JBS yet.

(With files from the Canadian Press)