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Residents question recent COVID-19 outbreaks

Last Updated Apr 23, 2020 at 10:59 pm MST

IMAGE. Supplied by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

Residents expressed their concerns about COVID-19 and workplace safety at the virtual townhall on April 23.

There are nine active cases of COVID-19 in Fort McMurray.

The townhall followed reports of 32 confirmed cases of the virus linked to the Kearl Lake oil sands facility.

READ MORE: UPDATE: Two more COVID-19 cases in RMWB

There were also recent reports of two confirmed cases with ties to Syncrude.

READ MORE: Syncrude confirms two COVID-19 cases linked to company

Karim Zariffa, executive director of the Oilsands Community Alliance (OSCA) said they addressed several factors.

He said industry and Alberta Health Services formed a task force to check on safety procedures on worksites and at work camps.

“The federal government provided some guidance to the aviation sector that masks are mandatory, so that’s another strategy that [has been] put in place.”

Zariffa added there are screenings and temperature checks before entry for local and commuting workers.

Workers that lodge in camps also receive daily monitoring and temperature checks.

To reduce the risk of spread, drivers should enforce guidelines when it comes to carpooling.

Recent incidents at Cargill and JBS Canada meat-packing facilities drew questions about foodborne illnesses.

Director of Emergency Management Scott Davis suggested some tips for food handling and storage.

He said residents should check best before dates on meats like chicken, beef, and pork.

“Take a look at how you’re handling the meat as you unpack it and prepare it for cooking, [and] ensuring you have the internal minimum cooking temperatures for that product.”

Davis said that should help protect against illness from foodborne pathogens.

Both federal and provincial health agencies said there is no evidence of food transmission of COVID-19.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, several non-essential businesses closed and essential businesses made significant changes.

Small businesses had to close for good due to the negative impact on business.

Kevin Weidlich, Wood Buffalo Economic Development Corporation CEO, said it’s too early to tell what effect COVID-19 will have on local businesses.

“We do know that the Alberta Chambers of Commerce have an estimate that perhaps 30 to 50 per cent of small businesses could close depending on the duration of the public health restrictions.”

Weidlich said it is an early estimate that is also dependent on a business’ relative strength.

Residents did ask how they can support Wood Buffalo’s non-profit sector during this crisis.

Chantal Beaver, Executive Director with FuseSocial, said any act of volunteerism done safely can make a huge difference.

“I know there are listings for emergency social services as well as soup kitchens. I know that we heard from different frontline workers and agencies, where they’re looking for people who can fill [protective equipment] bags, provide meals, and pick up groceries for those who can’t leave their homes.”

Beaver added non-profits throughout the region are still in business, but must work remotely.

She said they appreciate the patience of residents during this time.

To sign up for available positions, go to the WBVolunteers website.

Business owners and workers looking for information on federal aid may contact the office of Fort McMurray-Cold Lake MP David Yurdiga at (780) 743-2201.