Conestoga Meats continues operating with health measures in place as COVID-19 outbreak hits 132 cases
KITCHENER -- Conestoga Meats has brought in a number of health and safety measures and continues to operate during a COVID-19 outbreak at its meat packaging plant.
In a release, officials with the company said Conestoga Meats is considered an essential service.
Waterloo Region's COVID-19 dashboard shows there are now 132 cases associated with the outbreak, an increase of 33 cases since Sunday.
In an email to CTV News Kitchener, public health officials said 96 cases are now considered resolved.
"Due to significant social and household connections among workers, 47 have now been assessed to be community-acquired," the statement said in part. "Eighty-five of the cases reported to date have an acquisition source that is unknown and some could have been the workplace."
Public health said it's working closely with Conestoga Meats, adding the company has taken "significant efforts to help decrease spread amongst employees outside of the workplace."
The company said it has invested more than $8 million in improving safety at the plant, including screening staff members, having nursing staff on-site to handle any follow ups, mandatory face coverings and PPE for all members, along with physical barriers and staggering breaks.
Officials said they've also increased sanitization in all common areas and providing hotel accommodation for any team members who can't self-isolate at home. Taxi services are also available for any employees who has had to stop car pooling.
They've added 30 staff to help with the COVID-19 protocols.
Conestoga Meats said the second wave has brought an increased number of cases amongst employees, along with more cases in the community.
"Conestoga has provided all team members with masks and hand sanitizer for home use and provides frequent updates and reminders of best practices away from the workplace," company officials said in a news release. "Given the diverse nature of our work force, Conestoga has provided this communication in eight different languages. We have also continually worked under the assumption that everyone we meet, either away from work or in the workplace could potentially be COVID-19 positive and we thus need to act accordingly."
Public health has offered on-site COVID-19 testing and performed contact tracing on all positive cases, the company said.
"Given our current level of community transmission in Waterloo Region, we expect to see a significant increase in cases over the coming days as a result of the recently completed systematic testing of more than 600 employees this week," public health officials said. "Our case and contact management team is following up with positive cases directly and will assess their likely acquisition source."
The Ministry of Labour has visited the meat packaging plant and Conestoga Meats said there are no additional requirements.
The region's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Hsiu-Li Wang said "we do not have evidence at this time of an increased risk of spread within the workplace to recommend closure."
"Previously, the decision to close was made based on the need to implement appropriate infection prevention and control measures (and was done voluntarily by the organization)," a statement from Dr. Wang said in part.
The company said it's working to keep its employees safe while making sure there is food supply available to Canadians.