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COVID-19 outbreak at Site C

No need for closure orders, says Northern Health
The downstream Site C cofferdam in the foreground with ongoing dam excavation in the centre, March 2021. Both the upstream and downstream cofferdams have been completed.

Northern Health has declared a COVID-19 outbreak among contracted workforces at Site C.

Northern Health said Thursday the declaration follows evidence of virus transmission among employees working primarily on civil works and excavation for the project.

There have been 34 lab-confirmed cases identified among five clusters of cases, and a total of 13 cases remain active.

The two most recent and currently active clusters are among employees of Peace River Hydro Partners, and include a total of 7 active cases, Northern Health said.

Medical health officers "have determined there is no need for closure orders for the overall project, or individual project worksites," Northern Health said.

"Employees are being screened, and contact tracing is continuing. Those identified as cases and close contacts have been instructed to self-isolate, either at their worksite accommodations, or in their home communities," Northern Health said.

"Northern Health is working with the BC Centre for Disease Control to ensure communication with the health authorities or jurisdictions of affected employees’ home communities outside of BC."

100 workers isolating

As of Thursday, BC Hydro reported 1,448 workers at camp, including 39 in isolation. There have been 93 cases among workers since March 2020.

BC Hydro said the outbreak at PRHP is among those working in the contractor’s office complex and on the dam core excavation.

In a statement, BC Hydro acknowledged an increase in the number of cases on site over the past several weeks — more than 40 cases since the beginning of March. There are currently 100 workers isolating at home or on site, the company said.

“Over the last year, we’ve implemented a comprehensive plan to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at Site C, including aligning with health guidelines, screening every person accessing the site daily, using thermal scanners at various entry and exit points, and maintaining increased cleaning and physical distancing,” said President and CEO Chris O’Riley.

“However, the declaration of the outbreak demonstrates that we need to do better, and we will. In addition to the steps we are already taking, we will look to implement further measures in the coming days.”

Case clusters in recent weeks

Northern Health says public health teams have been working with BC Hydro and its contractors as well as WorksafeBC to manage "small clusters" of cases in recent weeks, Northern Health said.

The outbreak declaration will be in place for at least 28 days, and puts in place enhanced control measures where there has been evidence of ongoing transmission of illness, including, but not limited to:

  • Increased focus on COVID-19 prevention measures such as employee screening and physical distancing on the worksite

  • Review of COVID-19 safety plans, project-wide

  • Ongoing workforce COVID-19 immunizations, including contracted employees and rotational workers

BC Hydro says it has been taken including identifying and isolating any employees who may have been exposed, as well as evacuating and thoroughly disinfecting the contractor’s construction offices.

BC Hydro said asymptomatic testing of people in isolation is also being conducted to support contact tracing, and that it is adding signage around the camp to encourage compliance, increasing the number of hand sanitation stations, and improving physical distancing measures within office spaces.

“The health and safety of our workers and the public remains our top priority,” said O’Riley. “We continue to work with Northern Health to manage this outbreak and ensure all health guidelines to protect workers and community members are being followed.”

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