Nova Scotia

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Annapolis Valley poultry plant

An outbreak of COVID-19 has been declared at Eden Valley Poultry in Berwick, N.S., after four people tested positive in the last week.

4 cases of COVID-19 were detected at the plant in the last 2 days

Four cases of COVID-19 have been identified at Eden Valley Poultry. (Google Street View)

The province has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at a large poultry facility plant in the Annapolis Valley after multiple cases were identified this week.

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, said Friday that all employees at Eden Valley Poultry in Berwick, N.S., have been tested, revealing cases of COVID-19.

On Tuesday, two people had tested positive for the virus at the facility. Two more employees have tested positive since.

The plant closed Wednesday and will be closed for the next two weeks and all employees will be tested again next week.

"The decision we had in front of us was keep the plant going — but in all likelihood have more cases pop up and have them and their contacts isolate — or take the precautionary approach and close the plant now and have everybody at home isolating and tested," said Strang.

"As we have always been doing with COVID-19, our approach is to take the precautionary approach."

Dr. Robert Strang, the province's chief medical officer of health, at a COVID-19 press breifing on Dec. 11. (Communications Nova Scotia)

Strang said the outbreak began at the facility after an employee was infected by a family member who had travelled outside Atlantic Canada.

Strang said there is no evidence of community transmission but asymptomatic testing will be enhanced throughout the Valley.

Nova Scotia Health Authority will set up a primary assessment centre in Berwick and the mobile testing unit will be sent to the Valley.

Eden Valley Poultry employs more than 430 people, according to its website.

Facility had 'very stringent controls in place'

Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell said he had previously visited the facility and had "very stringent controls in place," including temperature checks, mandatory face masks, and isolation.

He said the impact on the plant, which has a number of producers relying on it, will depend on how long it's shut down.

"The shutdown of the facility could be serious if it's for a long period of time, but if it's a short period, it'll have very minimum impact," he said. 

"If it gets in over a week, we could have some real backup problems with the chickens that won't be able to be processed."

Colwell said the province is working on a plan in case that happens, and already has a plan in place.

In an "extreme situation" during an extended shutdown, he said that could include euthanizing chickens that get oversized and can't go to market — but Colwell said he hopes the facility will be up and operating again soon.