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Suncor provides update on COVID-19 response at Base Plant, Firebag

Last Updated Nov 5, 2020 at 5:28 pm MDT

Suncor's base plant with upgraders in the oil sands in Fort McMurray Alta, on Monday June 13, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDIT: Alberta Health Services monitored the outbreak at Firebag from Oct. 18. They elevated the situation at the site to an outbreak on Oct. 30.)

Suncor said it continues working with Alberta Health Services (AHS) in its COVID-19 response.

The Calgary-based company addressed the more recent COVID-19 outbreak at Firebag.

The provincial government added Firebag to its list of outbreak locations on its website on Nov. 4.

READ MORE: Suncor’s Firebag site included on Alberta COVID-19 outbreak list

COVID-19 response

Representative Erin Rees says contact tracing going back to Oct. 18 allowed the company to identify 21 infected workers.

“19 of those 21 cases are folks who were working on one particular drilling rig. With the health and safety of our workers being our first priority, we made the quick decision early last week to winterize and shutdown that one rig.”

Rees says six of those workers have since recovered from COVID-19.

She added the shutdown of the drilling rig had no impact on production.

Base Plant is also on Alberta’s COVID-19 outbreak list.

Rees said the company believes the majority of the 36 confirmed cases linked to the site are unrelated.

“The great majority of those 36 folks are people who have taken different forms of transportation to work, not been in contact at work, and working in very different parts of the site. That doesn’t mean it’s any less serious; we’re still working very closely with AHS to determine if there’s anything we can do to help reduce the spread.”

Rees added Suncor continues to look at where the point of transmission could have been.

To date, 33 of the 36 cases recovered leaving only three active cases with ties to Base Plant.

Base Plant, which is 220 square kilometres, employs between 5000-7500 workers and contractors.

Rees said Suncor halted its plans to transition from essential staff to voluntary on-site staffing once AHS declared the outbreak.

She said the company will manage allotments of people within teams.

AHS previously said the province will remove a workplace from its list of outbreak locations if there are no new cases at the site for four weeks.

Alberta update

Dr Deena Hinshaw, chief medical health officer, announced a delay to the Nov. 5 update.

Though unable to provide detailed data, Hinshaw said there are at least 800 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.

Officials identified a discrepancy in its numbers and will continue to sort out the issue.

Nine hospitals across Alberta also have outbreaks.

Hinshaw will provide a special two-day update on COVID-19 response on Nov. 6, 2020.