Northern Alberta camp worker tests negative for COVID-19

A worker who was exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 while employed at a northern Alberta oilsands camp has tested negative for coronavirus.

In a statement posted online Tuesday, Building Trades of Alberta, which represents 18 Alberta skilled trades unions with more than 60,000 members, confirmed that the worker who fell ill has tested negative.

“The individual tested for COVID-19 last week following a medical incident at the Borealis camp cafeteria has tested negative for the virus,” the statement says.

Civeo, the operator of the Borealis Lodge, a work camp about 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, issued a notice to its employees last Thursday warning about a suspected case of coronavirus on-site.

In a written statement issued last week, Civeo said, “the individual had been screened prior to arriving at site and at that time “no symptoms were disclosed.” However, once at the camp, the person started to show symptoms. 

Civeo, which operates 18 lodges in Alberta, isolated the individual following the onset of symptoms.

The person was taken to a hospital in Fort McMurray and the worker’s room, one of 1,500 semi-private rooms at the camp, was sanitized, the company said.  

As of Monday afternoon there were 301 confirmed cases in Alberta including 19 in the north zone. One case has been reported in Fort McMurray. 

Oil companies across Alberta, struggling with a sudden drop in oil prices, have also been contending with the threat of COVID-19 to their operational budgets and workforce. 

The spread of the virus is of particular concern in work camps where hundreds of employees often sleep, eat and exercise in close quarters.

Many companies have sent non-essential workers home, delayed indefinitely spring turn-around plans and increased screening for workers coming on site and or boarding company flights. 

No ‘undue risk’ 

On Monday, Alberta’s chief medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw responded to questions about employees living in work camps or working at construction sites.

Hinshaw said she is hearing concerns but doesn’t believe the current situation is putting anyone at “undue risk.”

She said sites are being looked at individually for their ability to follow public health protocols around hygiene, social isolation and potential quarantines.

“It’s really a matter of trying to weigh out the health risks and the risks of the spread of this virus against the risks of the actions that we take. 

“If we feel like more measures need to be take, we will put those in place.”

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