Kitchener-Waterloo

Conestoga Meats plant stays open after 7 employees test positive for COVID-19

Conestoga Meats is keeping its pork processing plant open in Breslau after seven workers tested positive for COVID-19.

Ontario Ministry of Labour investigating 2 complaints at the company

In this illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Conestoga Meats workers tested positive for COVID-19 at the company's Breslau pork processing plant. (The Canadian Press)

Conestoga Meats is keeping its pork processing plant open in Breslau after seven workers tested positive for COVID-19.

"Conestoga Meats was informed this week of its first COVID-19 positive cases at the plant," president Arnold Drung said in a statement.

Drung declined an interview, but in a statement said Waterloo Region Public Health told the company about the cases on Monday and said Conestoga Meats should expect more cases because of the size of its workforce and the increase in regional testing.

In the statement, Drung went on to say the company is "working with Waterloo Region Public Health with respect to the situation and following all recommended protocols, including having those who have been in contact with positive cases self-isolate for 14 days."

Daily temperature checks introduced

The plant is staying open with safety measures in place, Drung said, including daily temperature and symptom screening of workers with a nurse present, use of personal protective equipment, increased sanitation throughout the facility, staggering break and shift times as well as repurposing meeting rooms.

The company says it's important the plant continues to operate.

"Conestoga [Meats] is also a key part of the farming sector and it is important that the company is able to process livestock from its farmer owners to ensure their continued viability," said the statement from Drung.

He said the company has implemented its pandemic response plan to deal with positive cases, those being tested, and those exposed to the novel coronavirus, but it's not clear what the plan involves.

Investigation ongoing

The positive cases coincide with an investigation by the Ontario Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.

It is investigating after receiving two complaints on Wednesday related to COVID-19 at Conestoga Meats, including concerns about social distancing procedures.

A ministry spokesperson says an inspector was assigned and an investigation is ongoing.

The company was also investigated by the ministry for another complaint on March 24 regarding a lack of personal protective equipment.

The investigation is complete, and no orders were issued, according to the ministry.

"Customers and suppliers were notified — the supply chain has been working closely throughout the pandemic," said the statement from Drung.

On its website, Conestoga Meats calls itself the second-largest pork producer in Ontario, employing more than 800 workers. It also says it exports more than 50 per cent of its pork to more than 20 countries internationally.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story misspelled Arnold Drung's name.
    Apr 23, 2020 2:44 PM ET

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