75 virus cases identified at city poultry processor

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Alberta Health Services (AHS) says the first case of COVID connected with the Sunrise Poultry Plant in Lethbridge was identified six weeks ago and so far there have been 75 cases.
“Since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was identified in a Sunrise employee who works at the site on February 5, AHS and Sunrise have been aligned to limit the spread of the virus,” said Gwen Wirth spokesperson for AHS in an email.
On March 16 a spokesperson for Alberta Health, Sherene Khaw, told Southern Alberta Newspapers that there was no outbreak.
“….unless there is a remote possibility that they are listed under another name, I can confirm they are not on the most current outbreak list. The online list will be updated again on Friday afternoon,” according to an email.
On Friday afternoon Sunrise Poultry Processors, Lethbridge, was added to the outbreak list on Alberta Health’s website.
Khaw confirmed on Saturday that there have been 75 cases to date with 38 cases still active and no deaths.
Alberta Health’s website states that outbreaks are declared at non-healthcare workplaces “when there are 10 or more cases.”
AHS determined that the outbreak would be based on where transmission had occurred.
“Outbreaks are typically called when there is indication of transmission within a facility. In the weeks leading up to the declaration of an outbreak at Sunrise Poultry Processors, AHS Public Health determined that cases were being acquired in the community, not within the facility. The outbreak was declared as the case numbers continued to increase among facility staff. Upon declaration of an outbreak on March 18, 2021, Alberta Health was notified.”
Alberta Health is the government ministry for health.
AHS is the corporate structure, appointed by Alberta Health, and funded by provincial taxpayers to provide the delivery of health care.
Wirth says AHS is working with Sunrise Poultry with daily virtual meetings and weekly or bi-weekly updates with all partners. There have also been joint facility inspections and no concerns were identified.
“AHS and Sunrise have also coordinated to conduct point prevalence testing to identify asymptomatic cases quickly,” said Wirth.
People who have tested positive and their close contacts, are isolating according to provincial health requirements, said Wirth. Sunrise has implemented safety measures in the facility to contain and prevent the spread of COVID.
Southern Alberta Newspapers contacted the Lethbridge office of Sunrise Poultry for comment on Monday and was referred to its head office in B.C. There was no immediate response to a message left there on Monday.
Wirth says public health and Sunrise have worked proactively to minimize the spread of COVID. Processing numbers have been reduced and an additional shift added on Saturdays to reduce the number of staff on site at any given time. Staff wear masks and personal protective equipment plus physical barriers have been installed where physical distancing is not possible. There has also been enhanced sanitation.

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