"Movement" of staff occurred between Metro Vancouver poultry plants with virus outbreaks

Apr 24 2020, 1:55 pm

There was “some movement” of employees between a Vancouver poultry plant currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak and its sister-plant in Coquitlam, where new cases were announced, says Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry.

In a press conference on Thursday, Henry confirmed the new outbreak at Coquitlam’s Superior Poultry plant, where two people have tested positive so far.

Superior Poultry is the sister facility to the United Poultry plant in Vancouver, where there have been 29 confirmed cases. That plant has since been closed.

“There was some people working in both places or at least some movement between both places,” said Henry.

“They are under a different management structure and I know the investigation is ongoing, but it does look like there is likely to be others who are in the new facility as well who are also ill.”

Henry added that public health is in charge of shutting down food processing facilities when they see fit.

“This is something public health does. We have a whole public health inspector program — environmental health officers, they’re called — they’re the people who go around and do restaurant inspections so they’re not doing that at the moment… They do inspections in workplaces for health hazards for the workers,” she said.

“They have been going around and looking at all of our meat processing plants in the province, whether they are federally inspected or provincially inspected… But the order to close does come from public health if needed.”

According to its website, Superior Poultry is a federally inspected processing company.

On Friday, Fraser Health authority announced Superior Poultry Processors Ltd. had been shut down following the outbreak.

In a statement, Fraser Health said all employees have been screened, and case and contact management continues. Individuals who have been identified, and their close contacts, have been instructed to self-isolate.

Henry says transmission in large facilities or workplaces shows that although “it may seem like nothing … even one extra connection can lead to an introduction in an environment where others will get sick as well.” 

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) says there is “no evidence to suggest that food is a likely source or route of transmission for the virus” and at this time there have been no reports of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of the virus. As such, no recall of chicken products distributed from the Coquitlam facility is required.

Daily Hive reached out to Superior Poultry for further comment on Friday but was told they would not be speaking to media at this time.