A Syncrude employee and a contract worker have tested positive for COVID-19, but the company says the two were infected off-site and there isn’t an outbreak.
Syncrude spokesperson Will Gibson said the two cases are not related.
The Syncrude employee came in contact with someone displaying symptoms of COVID-19, according to Gibson. The employee was not working at the time and did not return to work after displaying symptoms.
“This case poses no risk,” said Gibson. “We really appreciate this person went through all of the right steps once feeling ill.”
The contract employee, however, was at a Syncrude site when they tested positive for COVID-19.
Alberta Health Services informed Syncrude Wednesday about the positive result.
The contract employee had reported to the Mildred Lake site, north of Fort McMurray, late last week.
Gibson said the company immediately began contact-tracing for the infected worker. As contacts are identified, they will be required to self-isolate.
Gibson said the source of the infection for the contractor was also outside of Syncrude.
Likely not connected to Kearl Lake outbreak
Gibson said the contractor would have been a dedicated contractor to Syncrude and would not likely have worked at Imperial Oil’s Kearl Lake site, where an outbreak of COVID-19 was announced on April 15.
Gibson said Syncrude has been making preparations, including setting up dedicated teams to help keep people in their facilities safe.
As well, the company has limited the on-site workforce. At the Mildred Lake site, where both of the infected employees worked, the number of workers has been decreased by thousands.
“Our employees and contractors have demonstrated they can safely and responsibly operate our sites with reduced staffing, most recently during the Horse River Wildfire,” said Gibson, referring to the wildfire that ravaged the region in 2016.
Residents worried about safety
The safety of workers was a big concern for residents in Wood Buffalo during a virtual town hall on Thursday.
Many attending the town hall wanted to know what is being done to keep workers and residents safe.
When asked what measures health officials are taking to make sure companies are following physical distancing rules, Scott Davis, director of emergency management for the municipality, said Alberta Health Services (AHS) is working with companies to improve health and safety protocols on site.
Karim Zariffa, executive director of the Oilsands Community Alliance, said workers are being screened before starting their shifts.
“All workers … go through a screening procedure before entering the site. And that’s either in the form of a questionnaire or a temperature check,” Zariffa said.
He added that workers staying in camps are also given daily temperature checks.