• By The Financial District

DEATH OF PINOY WORKER SPURS CLOSURE OF CANADIAN MEAT PLANT

Darwin Doloque's friends describe him as an eternal optimist, one who couldn't say no to anyone who needed help. On Jan. 28, the 35-year-old permanent resident who immigrated to Canada from the Philippines was found dead at his home in Red Deer, Alberta. The cause of death was attributed to a case of COVID-19 linked to his work at the city's Olymel meat-processing plant.

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Late Monday — nearly three weeks after Doloque's death and in an abrupt change of position hours after telling CBC News of Canada it planned to remain open — Olymel said it would temporarily shut down the plant, due to the rapidly growing COVID-19 outbreak at the facility.


As of Monday, February 15, 2021 (early February 16, 2021 in Manila) 326 employees at the plant tested positive for COVID-19, nearly double the count of 168 on Feb. 6. Of those, 192 remain active.


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CBC News spoke to six employees of Olymel for this story and agreed to withhold their names because they fear they could lose their jobs if they are identified.


During the interviews, workers said they were afraid to go to the plant, fearing for their own health and the health of their families. Several described negative effects on their mental wellbeing, as the outbreak continued to spread.


The company said Monday that management now believes the plant can no longer continue normal operations in a safe and efficient manner.


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Operations will cease over the next few days, Olymel said, and the company will continue to investigate how the outbreak grew so large.


Less than four hours earlier, company spokesperson Richard Vigneault had said neither Alberta Health Services (AHS), the provincial government, nor the company, itself, had yet come to the conclusion that the Red Deer plant should temporarily close.


The company's statement Monday evening did not state the reason for the change, but Vigneault said an assessment of the situation that afternoon led the company to a new conclusion.



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