Alberta declares COVID-19 outbreak at Amazon warehouse near Calgary

A worker at the Amazon warehouse north of Calgary says the company has notified staff about four new cases of COVID-19 recently — bringing the total to five.

5 cases have been confirmed at the Balzac facility

Five employees at the Amazon warehouse north of Calgary have tested positive for COVID-19. This is a file photo of another Amazon facility. (Mark Lennihan/The Associated Press)

The Amazon warehouse north of Calgary is now the site of a COVID-19 outbreak with five confirmed cases, said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province's chief medical officer of health on Friday afternoon.

"They've had a site inspection already with someone from the public health team and have seen many measures in place to prevent the spread of infection," Hinshaw said.

"There's been some recommendations made to the location with respect to how they can enhance and make those measures more robust."

Earlier this week, Amazon employees told CBC News they were scared about coming into work at the 600,000-square-foot facility in Balzac as news about COVID-19 cases were confirmed by the company.

On April 12, the company first reported there had been one confirmed case among the more than 1,000 full-time workers. 

The worker also told CBC News that the company had taken steps to ensure workers are safe, such as providing temperature checks at arrival and providing masks.

In a statement provided to CBC News on Friday, Timothy Carter, a spokesperson with Amazon, said the company was following guidelines from health officials and taking "extreme measures" to ensure the facility is safe.

"We have [implemented] proactive measures at our facilities to protect employees including increased cleaning at all facilities, maintaining social distance in the fulfillment centres, and adding distance between drivers and customers when making deliveries," Carter said.

Investigation underway

Hinshaw said the investigation underway at the site entails looking at the confirmed cases and determining when they became sick and then using that information to try and pinpoint other potential risks.

In response to a question at Friday's news conference, Hinshaw said the situation is very different from the one unfolding at Cargill, where 921 cases have now been confirmed.

"This is a very different workplace than Cargill," she said. "Every single case needs to take into account what kinds of work happen."

Anyone who is a close contact with those who have tested positive will be asked to keep away from others for 14 days and self-isolate at home, Hinshaw said.

With files from Colleen Underwood