Beck: Rapid tests must be deployed immediately to stop workplace outbreaks

REGINA – Today Carla Beck, Official Opposition Critic for Labour, called on the Premier and the Sask Party government to immediately deploy rapid COVID-19 testing kits to employees of Prairie Pride Natural Foods Inc. Confirmed cases at the plant have doubled since the outbreak was declared on February 19 but wide-scale testing of plant employees has still not been implemented.

“You can’t call it rapid testing if the kits have been sitting on shelves for months,” said Beck. “We’ve seen outbreaks at food processing plants before. These rapid tests should be deployed at the first sign of COVID-19. Slow government responses to workplace outbreaks put workers at risk and only helps the virus spread.” 

There are roughly 260 workers employed at Prairie Pride. Despite the fact that SHA declared an outbreak on February 19, with the first cases discovered on February 12, workers and their union have been left completely in the dark about the scale of the outbreak. 

“We know of 9 confirmed cases, with an additional 50 other individuals connected to those 9 cases, that have been told by the SHA to self-isolate. That’s a quarter of the plant,” said Norm Neault, President of UFCW 1400. “These workers move around the plant quite a bit and many of them carpool to work. The case count could be significantly higher which is why we need to quickly test employees and perform a deep clean of the facility.” 

The Saskatchewan government received a shipment of 422,080 rapid test kits from the federal government but, as of February 5th, had only utilized 2 per cent of their stockpile. While the government has announced plans to deploy more tests, they did not release any details or timelines associated with those plans.

Beck and the Official Opposition are calling on the Sask Party government to immediately deploy the rapid testing kits to Prairie Pride to identify the scale of the outbreak and to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of those workers and their families.