B.C. expects more cases linked to Alberta oilsands project

An outbreak of COVID-19 at an oilsands project in northern Alberta has now been linked to seven cases in workers returning to B.C., and officials believe there will be more to come.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry confirmed the link Monday to the Kearl Lake project located north of Fort McMurray.

She also issued a public health order stipulating that anyone who returns from the oilsands site must self-isolate for 14 days.

“We expect there will be more people. We know that there are people coming back and forth between places in Alberta and here on a regular basis as part of the essential work that they do,” Henry said.

She added that anyone who has been on the Alberta project since March 15 and has experienced symptoms of COVID-19 should call 811. The same goes for family members and anyone else who might have had contact with the returning workers.

At least 20 cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the Kearl Lake project, including 12 in Alberta and eight in other provinces.

New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have issued also warnings to workers returning from the site, which is owned by Imperial and ExxonMobil Canada.

Last week, Alberta’s provincial health officer said work is underway to minimize the risk of transmission, including more cleaning.

A statement from Imperial says plans are being made to test everyone who works on the site.

B.C.’s guidelines for industrial sites and work camps say these projects are permitted to remain open, but management must ensure physical distancing, keep stocks of infection control supplies like hand sanitizer and masks, and clean and disinfect common areas regularly.

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