An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Kearl Lake oilsands project near Fort McMurray, Alta. continues to worsen. Last week, health officials in Alberta confirmed 83 cases have been linked to the project.
To the west, officials in B.C. continued to urge the site’s travelling workers to self-isolate after returning home. Interior Health in B.C. stated that it has identified 19 cases of the virus related to the project in its region.
“One of the more challenging issues that we’ve had recently is an increase in numbers of cases here associated with the Kearl Lake plant in Alberta,” said Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, during a press conference, noting there have even been cases where workers’ family members have been infected after they returned. “Here in B.C., we are requiring people who have come back from working in that facility to self-isolate whilst they’re in B.C.”
Imperial Oil, the company that owns and runs the project, explained that it has completed contact tracing for all infected site workers and have asked additional members of its workforce to self-isolate while further testing is underway.
“We continue to co-ordinate closely with Alberta Health Services (AHS) as we manage this issue,” reads a statement from the company. “We are committed to safeguarding the safety and health of our workforce and we are in contact with those who have tested positive to ensure they are supported. Our thoughts are with these individuals and hope they make a full recovery.”
Imperial is also working with AHS on plans to do broad COVID-19 testing for all Kearl Lake workers which will help collect data on how the virus is potentially spreading as well as gather possible insight into asymptomatic carriers.
“Information like this is critically useful not only to help us get assurances on the health of our workforce, but to assist the medical community further their understanding of the virus,” said Imperial officials.
Imperial listed measures it has taken in response to the outbreak:
- Pre-travel/access screening questionnaire and temperature screening at flight centres in Calgary and Edmonton administered by registered health professionals
- Enhanced cleaning and sterilization and ensuring social distancing
- Daily temperature readings for all individuals prior to the start of a shift
- Reduction of non-essential workforce
- Isolation protocols and continuous care for anyone not feeling well or who has developed symptoms with the establishment of an isolation wing at Kearl Lake
- Providing emergency contacts for onsite assistance if an employee has symptoms, health concerns or mental health support travel restrictions
- Reduced capacity on flights and buses to leave open seats and ensure physical distancing