Security guard at Brandon meat plant tests positive for COVID-19

By | May 17, 2020

A security guard at the Maple Leaf Foods plant in Brandon, Man. has tested positive for COVID-19.

In a news release on Friday, the union that represents workers at the facility said it got the news on Thursday night. The release said the guard has not been at the plant for more than two weeks and it is believed he contracted the illness caused by the new coronavirus after his last shift.

“This is a reminder of how vigilant we need to be,” United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 president Jeff Traeger said in the release. 

“I’m very relieved that COVID-19 still has not made [its] way into Maple Leaf, or any other large plant in Manitoba, but this feels like a close call.”

Traeger did not respond to a request for an interview on Sunday.

The release said the guard was not showing symptoms of COVID-19 while he was at work. He was tested for the illness on May 4, it said.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 president Jeff Traeger said the security guard who last worked at Maple Leaf in April testing positive for COVID-19 “feels like a close call.” (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

A spokesperson for Maple Leaf said the man was a contract worker at the plant and confirmed he has not been there for 19 days as of Sunday.

The contract company the guard works for told Maple Leaf the man believes he was exposed to the illness on April 30 by an acquaintance who had tested positive — two days after his last shift at the plant, said Janet Riley, vice-president of communications and public affairs for Maple Leaf Foods.

Riley declined a request for an interview on Sunday, and instead answered questions by email.

She said Maple Leaf was told the security guard immediately self-isolated when he realized he had been in contact with a confirmed case of the illness. The man learned he tested positive for COVID-19 on May 6, Riley said.

‘Proactive in our efforts’

Riley said the man’s employer learned he had tested positive on Thursday, and informed Maple Leaf that day. She said the company informed all its employees and the union immediately and that it is operating normally.

Riley could not say whether the man was a close contact of the COVID-19 outbreak that began at a trucking company in Brandon. Health officials first announced that outbreak on May 5.

Riley said because the man hasn’t been at the plant in several weeks and because his job involves relatively little contact with Maple Leaf employees, the company’s physician medical advisor said it is “an extremely low risk situation.”

“We’ve been proactive in our efforts to keep our employees safe and we’ve been reassured that no employee at Brandon has developed COVID, but it’s important to continue being vigilant in battling this virus,” Riley said.

While the security guard was not a Maple Leaf employee, the union said in its news release that if a positive case does show up within the workplace, it will demand the company close its plants for two weeks and cover employees’ wages during that time.

Riley did not say whether the company would agree to that request. She said Maple Leaf’s response plan for when a new case is detected at one of its plants involves consulting with its medical health advisor and doing its own contact tracing.

Maple Leaf is also doing daily health and temperature screening for employees, requiring workers to wear face masks and increasing physical distancing between people, she said.

As of Sunday, 59 Maple Leaf employees have tested positive for COVID-19 — none of which are in Manitoba — and seven of the company’s plants have had at least one confirmed positive case.

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