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One of Guelph's COVID-related deaths was connected to Guelph Cargill facility

Currently, Cargill's meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive has had 172 confirmed COVID cases
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Cargill's meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive. GuelphToday file photo

Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health confirms one of the 18 COVID-related deaths in Guelph is related to the Guelph Cargill plant.

Public Health spokesperson Danny Williamson confirmed that a 79-year-old male from Guelph died of COVID and it was related to Cargill's meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive. He passed away on Dec. 30. 

It is not known if the man worked at the plant or if he was connected to someone who was.

Currently, Cargill's meat processing facility on Dunlop Drive has 10 active cases, down from 15 last week. It also has 172 positive COVID cases, up four from 168 last week, with 57 people in isolation. 

At the time of closing mid-December, the facility had 37 active cases as the spread of the virus rapidly increased. The positive case count had jumped from 125 on Dec. 23 to 143 on Dec. 29. That’s 18 cases in six days. 

Since last Monday, the plant has been fully open with no other shutdowns reported.

Cargill’s COVID cases have been increasing across the country. Last week, an Albertan woman filed a formal complaint with the RCMP to investigate potential criminal negligence on Cargill’s part in response to the death of her father, a worker in Cargill’s High River location in Alberta. 

The confirmed investigation is now said to be Canada’s first COVID-19 investigation in a workplace. The High River location also had the largest virus outbreak in the country in May 2020 with 950 workers testing positive. 

Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) which represents over 70,000 unionized workers in the province including Cargill and is now calling on the provincial government to ensure every frontline worker — who works in retail, factories, health care, and who risks their health every day by going to work— has priority access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

That would include those working in the meatpacking plants and grocery store staff.

“We see the numbers rising every day. We see the heartbreaking situation at our long-term care homes and a government that won’t step up and make it right. We see outbreaks at our meat processing plants, and we see a rising number of cases among retail grocery workers too,” said Shawn Haggerty, president of UFCW Local 175 in a press release Monday. 

The union is also calling on employers across the province along with the provincial government to make permanent increases to wages of workers risking their health by going to work. 

“I think we’re well past the point now in this pandemic where profit at the expense of the workers has become more than obscene. It’s unconscionable that more employers haven’t stepped up to do the right thing for the very workers keeping their businesses alive,” said Haggerty.

 “These workers deserve permanent increases immediately.”