Cargill Plant is Largest Source of Covid-19 Cases in Province of Alberta

Cargill Plant is Largest Source of Covid-19 Cases in Province of Alberta

Health officials have reported more than 350 cases in households connected to the Canadian meat-packing plant.

A growing number of Covid-19 cases at a Cargill meat-packing plant in Canada is now the source of the largest outbreak in the province of Alberta. On Friday, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, said that were 358 Covid-19 cases in households connected to the Cargill facility. The plant, which employs about 2,000 workers, is located in the town of High River which is about 40 miles south of Calgary. Alberta borders western Montana.

One plant worker has died, while the total number of cases linked to the outbreak grew to 484, CBC News reported Monday afternoon. Cargill has since temporarily closed the plant.

On Monday morning, representatives of Wayzata-based Cargill Inc. could not immediately be reached for comment.

Dr. Hinshaw indicated that about 200 of the Covid-19 cases were Cargill employees and the remaining cases involved households connected to those workers.

The cases at Cargill’s plant near Calgary have so far drawn little notice in the U.S., but have been covered for the past week by the CBC News and other Canadian media outlets.

A CBC report from Sunday interviewed eight workers at the plant. Those employees estimated that 60 to 80 percent of the workers at the Cargill plant are Filipino. The plant workers are represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

In an April 12 letter to Cargill, Thomas Hesse, president of UFCW Local 401, called for “an immediate two-week closure of your plant to conduct a comprehensive assessment of its safety.”

The next day, the union said there were 38 confirmed cases at the plant.

Cargill is the largest privately-held company in the U.S. For its 2019 fiscal year that ended on May 31, 2019, the company reported revenue of $113.5 billion. Cargill is a global operation with 160,000 employees in 70 countries.

Covid-19 cases are emerging at many meat processing plants. The plants are typically designed for maximum production efficiency and employees work very close to each other.

A pork processing plant operated in Sioux Falls, S.D., by Virginia-based Smithfield Food Inc. closed after an outbreak of Covid-19 cases among its workers. In an April 12 announcement, Smithfield said that the plant would “remain closed until further notice.” As of April 15, a total of 518 Smithfield employees in Sioux Falls had tested positive for the virus. The Smithfield operation employs 3,700 people and is one of the largest pork processing facilities in the U.S.

In Worthington, the Minnesota Department of Health has identified 26 workers at the JBS Pork plant there have tested positive for Covid-19. On Monday, JBS announced plans to halt operations at the Worthington plant indefinitely. Colorado-based JBS USA and is a competitor to both Cargill and Smithfield.

The most recent statistics on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) listed a total of 720,630 cases in the U.S. and 37,202 deaths. The preliminary numbers were last updated yesterday.

Twin Cities Business will continue to follow and update this story.