COVID-19 cluster in Brandon growing, 5 new cases in Winnipeg

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew speaks during a media conference in Winnipeg on Friday

Of the new cases, 10 are from the Prairie Mountain Health Region, five are in the Winnipeg Health Region, and two are from the Southern Health Region.

The new cases were announced as more workers at a Brandon pork-processing facility tested positive for the novel coronavirus, prompting the union representing workers at the plant to call for it to shut down.

Health officials haven't seen evidence of transmission within the plant so far, he said.

The union, which represents almost 2,000 workers at the plant, is renewing its call to have the company halt production there until the situation is under control.

Public health officials went on to reveal that a majority of today's cases appear to be linked to known clusters in the Brandon area or close contacts. It is the largest current cluster in the province. Maple Leaf is also instructing employees to apply for CERB if they can, she said. The Brandon Maple Leaf processing plant reported on Friday that there are now 10 positive cases of COVID-19 among the workers at the facility.

Eight cases are connected to a business in Brandon, however, Roussin says each person has contracted the virus outside the workplace and their close contacts have been identified in the community, not the workplace. The plant has said it is keeping its doors open, citing investigations that the spread is out in the community and not occurring at the plant.

On Friday, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said 34 cases had been linked to the COVID-19 cluster in Brandon.

"There is no evidence of work place transmission", he said.

The announcement comes from the province's COVID-19 Dashboard. The entire plant has undergone a deep clean since infected individuals last worked.

Janet Riley, Maple Leaf's vice president of communications, said they are working with the union to address any concerns that may be in place about the facility's safety, pointing to an inspection completed on Thursday that showed no concerns or a requirement of extra measures that needed to be taken.

"The federal government is still finalizing the operational details on mechanisms and processes for the Pan-Canadian Sick Leave Program".

UFCW secretary-treasurer Bea Bruske said Maple Leaf has committed to paying up to 75 per cent of an employees' wages while they're off sick during the pandemic. "And in this case, when you take a financial hit in order to self-isolate or stay home when you're sick, it makes it a little harder to do the right thing".

The union, which represents almost 2,000 workers at the plant, said many employees have asked if they can refuse to go to work.



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