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Health officials declare COVID-19 outbreak at Albian oilsands site

Last Updated Aug 15, 2020 at 3:44 pm MST

Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. says it has struck a deal to buy much smaller oil and gas producer Painted Pony Energy Ltd. for $111 million in cash and the assumption of $350 million in debt. Canadian Natural Resources logo is shown at the company's annual meeting in Calgary on May 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Canadian Natural (CNRL) confirmed ties with as many as five workers at Albian Sands tested positive for COVID-19.

This is the first AHS-defined outbreak of the illness at a CNRL site since the outbreak at Horizon in May.

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Julie Woo, Public Affairs Manager for CNRL, said the timeline of events leading up to the declaration.

“During the last week, Canadian Natural confirmed five positive cases of COVID-19 of personnel working at the Albian site. Canadian Natural immediately began contact tracing efforts, isolation procedures, and provided information to AHS on close contacts that would require testing.”

Woo said the company completed all contact tracing.

COVID-19 response

CNRL found a link between four cases of COVID-19 and workers in the same shift and operational area.

Woo said CNRL later determined one individual likely acquired the illness while attending a large family gathering in their home community.

“The contact tracing process resulted in identifying the related positive cases and an additional 19 close contacts who have tested negative. ”

In a separate investigation, health officials learned another worker linked to Albian tested positive for COVID-19.

The worker showed symptoms while off-shift at home.

They notified CNRL of the positive test, which totalled five positive cases of the illness linked to Albian.

Speaking on May 13, Dr Deena Hinshaw, chief medical officer of health, said five cases of COVID-19 tied to one site qualifies as an outbreak.

“When there are one or two cases at a particular worksite, that isn’t considered to be proof of transmission at that work site, and therefore, the public disclosure does wait until five cases where it does seem that there has been on-site transmission.”

Woo said CNRL will continue to monitor all five workers as they recover from COVID-19.

“Canadian Natural has in place significant precautionary measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 and a stringent response protocol that follows the guidance of public health officials at AHS when staff are showing symptoms of illness. We continue to review and enhance our precautionary measures as necessary.”

On April 30, CNRL confirmed one positive case of COVID-19 in a worker linked to Albian.

RELATED: Canadian Natural confirms ties with COVID-19 case

The worker, who worked on the site with a camp service provider, tested positive days after leaving the site.

Near Fort McKay, Albian Sands is more than 60 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.