Manitoba poultry plant employee dies after testing positive for COVID-19

An employee at a southeastern Manitoba poultry plant who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, a spokesperson for the company confirmed.

Total of 33 confirmed cases of COVID-19 linked to plant in Blumenort as of Thursday morning, union says

An employee at the Exceldor Cooperative plant in Blumenort, Man., died after testing positive for COVID-19. (Patrick Foucault/CBC)

An employee at a southeastern Manitoba poultry plant who tested positive for COVID-19 has died, a spokesperson for the company confirmed.

The 42-year-old man was one of 27 workers at the Exceldor Cooperative plant in Blumenort, Man., who have tested positive for the virus since Oct. 8, said Gabrielle Fallu, a spokesperson for the Quebec-based company, in an email statement. 

The man died on Oct. 11.

"We were shocked and saddened by this sudden event," Fallu said.

"We had the opportunity to discuss with his relatives on this tragic event and express them, on behalf of the Exceldor team, our deepest sadness and sincere condolences."

The worker's infection was contracted outside of the plant, she said.

It's unclear whether the man's death was a result of COVID-19. The company said it was unable to share any more details about the case, out of respect for the worker's privacy. 

So far, there has been no evidence that any of the workers at the plant contracted the illness while at work, according to the company and provincial health inspectors.

Based on contact tracing and a review of safety measures at the plant, public health officials don't believe the transmission is happening within the facility, Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, said Thursday.

"Some community acquisition, including [through] carpooling, is something that is being considered," Roussin said.

A spokesperson for the union that represents plant workers said it was made aware of the man's death over Thanksgiving long weekend.

"We didn't, at that time, know the specifics, and we still don't know the specifics, in terms of exactly what this individual passed away from," said Bea Bruske, secretary-treasurer for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832.

33 confirmed cases

A total of 33 people linked to the plant have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, Bruske told guest host Sam Samson in an interview on CBC Manitoba's Radio Noon.

Bruske said the union isn't aware of a cluster of cases in any single department.

"We can't point to one department and say, 'This is the problem area,'" she said.

The site — a Granny's Poultry plant, before Exceldor merged with Granny's earlier this year — is the largest poultry plant in Manitoba, according to the union, and employs about 650 people. As of Wednesday evening, 89 people linked to the plant were self-isolating, and Bruske said Thursday she believes that number is still roughly accurate.

The union has been in communication with the employer multiple times a day, she said. The company put measures in place early to prevent the spread of COVID-19, she added, including spacing employees out, putting up barriers between individuals, providing personal protective equipment and staggering start times.

Bruske said she doesn't think the plant will shut down production unless there's an order from public health officials, based on the union's experience with an outbreak at the Maple Leaf pork processing facility in Brandon earlier this year.

However, the company has addressed all the concerns raised by the union so far, she said.

Bruske said another inspection by Manitoba officials is scheduled for Friday.


Cameron MacLean

Online Reporter

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Aidan Geary