BRANDON, MANITOBA – Maple Leaf Foods confirmed Aug. 10 that 23 employees at its Brandon, Manitoba, pork processing plant have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). The number of cases increased over the weekend; there were 10 confirmed cases when Michael McCain, president and chief executive officer, issued a statement Aug. 7.

“Since we released our Aug. 7 statement, the City of Brandon has seen a significant increase in COVID-19 cases in the community, and cases among our team members have increased as well,” said Janet Riley, vice president of communications and public affairs at Maple Leaf Foods, in a statement. “Total COVID-19 positives among Brandon plant Team Members as of this afternoon is 23. Fortunately, all of these Team Members are recuperating at home and we are in close contact with them.”

According to Maple Leaf Foods, the cases are the result of community transmission.

“Manitoba Public Health Officials have emphasized that there is ‘no evidence of workplace transmission,’” Riley said. “The cases among our Team Members are part of the more than 86 active cases occurring in the Prairie Mountain region now and 196 active cases in Manitoba. Public health officials support our view that our workplace remains safe and that there is no reason to suspend operations: simply put, based on all the evidence, COVID-19 is not being spread at our plant. It is important to note that 144 members of our Brandon plant team have tested negative for COVID-19.”  

On the afternoon of Aug. 6, Maple Leaf invited public health and workplace safety authorities, as well as the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to complete a joint inspection of the plant. “The outcome of this inspection was a positive reinforcement of the rigorous steps Maple Leaf Foods is taking to provide a safe work environment and prevent workplace spread of COVID-19, including barriers, ventilation, distancing, screening, monitoring and enforcement protocols. As a result, Public Health and CFIA officials support our decision to continue operating,” the company said on Aug. 6.

The company implemented its COVID-10 response plan after discovering the positive cases last week, which includes daily temperature screenings, mandatory face coverings and social distancing measures.

“In press conferences over the weekend, Dr. Brent Roussin (chief public health officer in Manitoba) said Maple Leaf’s Brandon plant has ‘gone beyond public health recommendations.’ This comment reflects the fact that the safety of our people is our top priority,” Riley said in a statement. “We will continue to be vigilant using our robust pandemic protocols including daily health and temperature screening, mandatory face coverings and careful social distancing.”

 To see Maple Leaf’s COVID-19 prevention measures in practice, click here.