At least 10 Loblaws warehouse staff worked while symptomatic during COVID-19 outbreak

·2 min read

During a COVID-19 outbreak, employees at a Loblaws warehouse in Calgary worked while symptomatic, didn't wear masks, and didn't disinfect equipment, according to a recently issued health order.

Alberta Health Services said epidemiologists determined at least 10 people were working while showing symptoms of COVID-19 during the ongoing outbreak at Westfair Foods, a warehouse located at 55 Freeport Boulevard N.E. that serves Loblaws stores like Real Canadian Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart in Calgary.

The health order, issued Thursday, also states that there was inconsistent masking among forklift operators at the warehouse.

"The most recent outbreak includes many positive cases among employees within this role (attack rates of 23 per cent and 30 per cent respectively between the two outbreaks)," the order reads.

It stated that disinfection procedures weren't being observed, washrooms weren't being disinfected frequently, and there was a lack of evidence that systems to prevent spread of COVID-19 were being carried out or monitored by on-site management.

An Alberta Health spokesperson said there are 60 cases linked to the current outbreak at the warehouse, 11 of which are active, and that updated numbers would be available on Tuesday.

Loblaws was ordered to implement daily screening at the warehouse and maintain records, ensure all workers are wearing masks, complete a risk mitigation plan, and share materials with AHS that were provided to employees about COVID-19.

Catherine Thomas, senior director of external communications for Loblaws, said in an emailed statement that the AHS report is not in line with the company's expectations for the site, and that the company is working closely with public health on next steps.

"Since the beginning of the pandemic, the safety of our team members has been at the forefront of everything we do. Specifically at our distribution centres, we have put a number of protocols in place, including daily health screening, increased sanitization efforts, and physical distancing requirements," the statement read.

There are currently multiple COVID-19 outbreaks at warehouses in the Calgary area, including at three Walmart Logsitics facilities, a Sobeys distribution centre, a Cargill processing facility, and an Amazon warehouse.

Other health orders

The health order was also one of a few issued in the city this week.

Fatima restaurant in northeast Calgary was ordered to close for breaking COVID-19 and other food safety rules, including storing open foods alongside mouse droppings and a food handler wearing a mask beneath their nose.

Dynamic Furniture in the city's southeast was ordered closed, as close contacts of COVID-19 cases were working while legally required to be quarantined, some staff were not wearing masks, and staff were wearing dirty gloves.

And Northside Baptist Church, in the northeast, was ordered to allow health inspectors to enter the facility and to enforce COVID-19 rules, after pastor David Atkins refused to allow a public health inspector to enter and dozens of congregants were observed entering the church without masks.