Manitoba’s second-largest city is now dealing with a “fairly large outbreak” of COVID-19 as more cases were confirmed in Brandon on Friday, Manitoba’s chief public health officer said.
Dr. Brent Roussin announced 17 new COVID-19 cases in the province at a news conference on Friday afternoon, and confirmed there are now eight cases involving workers at what he referred to as a business in Brandon.
Roussin did not name the business, but earlier on Friday, the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 announced four more workers had tested positive at the Maple Leaf pork processing plant in the city, in addition to four that had been announced on Thursday.
“All cases appear to have contracted the virus outside of the workplace,” Roussin said. “To be clear, there is no evidence of workplace transmission at this time.”
None of the eight confirmed cases are among workers on the production line, UFCW said.
In total, 34 cases of COVID-19 have now been linked to a COVID-19 cluster in Brandon, Roussin said.
There are also six other cases in Brandon not linked to that cluster, meaning they would be considered examples of community spread, Roussin said.
UFCW 832, along with Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, have called for the Maple Leaf plant to temporarily close until at least Monday, to allow time for workers to get their test results and for the plant to be deep-cleaned.
Roussin said the plant received a deep clean since the last time the infected employees worked there.
Maple Leaf has said there are no plans to halt operations at the plant, which was inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on Thursday.
So far, there is no evidence that infected workers contracted the virus in the plant, Roussin said on Thursday.
132 active cases
Earlier Friday, Premier Brian Pallister acknowledged the fears workers may have about coming to work at the plant.
“I’m scared, too,” he said during a news conference Friday morning, but added the company has taken all steps requested by public health officials.
“I think that I would say to [the workers] that they deserve to feel confident, because we are following the best health advice that we can get here in Manitoba and we’re going to continue to.”
Roussin also said a worker at a Tim Hortons on 18th Street in Brandon who tested positive was working during the infectious period, but not while symptomatic. That means the risk of transmission is low, Roussin said.
Friday’s new cases include 10 in the Prairie Mountain Health region — which includes Brandon — five in the Winnipeg health region and two in the Southern Health region.
The new cases bring the provincial total to 491. Of those, 132 are active and 351 people have recovered from the illness.
Nine people are now in hospital, including three in intensive care.
Manitoba’s five-day rolling test positivity rate climbed to 1.1 per cent, from 0.9 per cent on Thursday.
There have been eight deaths in Manitoba connected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
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