Ontario poultry plant waited 3 weeks to publicly disclose COVID-19 outbreak
The Maple Lodge Farms poultry processing plant in Brampton, Ont., is coming under heavy criticism today after it was learned that management failed to tell the public about a serious coronavirus outbreak.
To be fair, the company did eventually share news of the outbreak — but not until three weeks after finding out about its first infected worker.
Twenty-four of the plant's employees have now tested positive for COVID-19, according to Peel Public Health — an increase of 23 cases between the time Maple Lodge learned of its first case and the time it finally admitted that the virus had been detected in its workforce at all.
"Since our last communication, we have encountered our first positive cases of COVID-19 amongst employees in our Brampton, Ontario plant," reads a notice posted to the company's website on May 4.
"Given the prevalence of the virus in our communities and the large number of people we employ, we were prepared for this eventuality."
A copy of an internal email to employees obtained by Global News, however, indicates that Maple Lodge was aware of the fact that at least one employee had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 15. Employees were informed of this one case on April 16.
Peel Public Health further said in a statement that a confirmed case of the virus had been reported at the Maple Lodge Farms facility as early as April 8.
Whatever their disclosure policies and procedures, and despite the fact that 24 employees had tested positive between April 8 and April 30, the chicken company has not closed down or stopped production for deep cleaning (as many other workplaces have done under the same circumstances.)
@MapleLodgeFarms Just curious. Your profile includes the #FamilyFirst hashtag.— JB (@JBinToronto) May 7, 2020
Is that what you were thinking when you waited 3 weeks to report the COVID-19 outbreak at your Brampton plant?
Also...where was Ontario’s Public Health Service? @OPHA_Ontario
Maple Lodge says public health officials were notified after each new case of COVID-19 was confirmed in an employee, prompting "an in-depth investigation and risk assessment" that took place in cooperation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
The company says it put a number of new preventative measures into place as a result of the investigation.
"The Ontario Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labour deem our increased sanitation measures, along with the physical distancing measures, the additional PPE issued to production workers, and the requirement to wear masks at all times in all areas of our facility, to be appropriate preventative measures to keep our employees well-protected in the workplace," reads the statement issued May 4.
"In addition to the precautionary measures we are taking, we are continuously updating our Emergency Response plan, policies and procedures to ensure we are doing the best job possible to protect our employees and keep Canadians fed with safe and wholesome chicken."
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