COVID-19 hits Manitoba poultry plant

A poultry plant in southeastern Manitoba has 27 workers with COVID-19. One employee who contracted the virus has died.

The cases are at the Exceldor plant in Blumenort, Man., southeast of Winnipeg.

Exceldor is a Quebec co-operative that now controls Granny’s Poultry, a well-known brand in Manitoba.

The first case of COVID-19 was detected at the plant Oct. 8. Many more employees have since become sick, but not because of workplace transmission.

A provincial spokesperson told the CBC that the workers contracted COVID-19 through community transmission.

The Exceldor plant in Blumenort employs about 650 workers. Some of the employees live in Blumenort and nearby Steinbach, but the co-operative draws employees from across southern Manitoba.

Rod Harder, general manager of western operations for Exceldor, told Steinbachonline.com that the employee who died lived in Winnipeg.

“He worked for us for almost six years and was well loved by his fellow employees….We’re not certain if he died from COVID itself directly or an underlying health concern.… Public health of course is fully investigating.”

Manitoba has seen a spike in COVID-19 cases this fall, especially in October. Since the beginning of the month the number of positive cases has ranged from 80 to 180 per day.

This is the second major outbreak for workers at a meat processing plant in the province. In August about 70 workers at the Maple Leaf pork plant in Brandon tested positive for the coronavirus.

Exceldor has implemented a long list of practices to reduce the risk of transmission at the poultry plant, Harder said. The co-operative has invested $1.1 million in COVID precautions, including installing Plexiglas throughout the facility, separating employees, using masks and shields and implementing a strict quarantine and self-isolation policy for employees who get sick.

Contact robert.arnason@producer.com

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