The Valemount worker accommodation camp houses 560 workers. /RMG FILE PHOTO

By Laura Keil

Northern Health says it’s not declaring an outbreak, but is announcing 16 confirmed COVID cases among Trans Mountain workers in Valemount.

Northern Health says Medical Health Officers are working with Trans Mountain to manage “a cluster” of COVID-19 cases among employees and contractors in the Valemount area, which has been ongoing since early August.

As of August 13th, 16 individuals had tested positive for COVID-19 in association with the cluster, and the cases are considered active. In addition to confirmed cases, some 50 close contacts are in self-isolation.

“A COVID-19 outbreak is not being declared at this time,” Northern Health said in a statement. “Public Health’s investigation suggests the majority of infections were not acquired at the site, and there is little evidence of ongoing transmission of illness among project employees.”

The Goat contacted Trans Mountain to confirm how many cases were among people living in community and how many were living in the worker accommodation camp setting. Trans Mountain says the cases are among both people living in-camp and in-community. 

In a recent presentation to Valemount Council, a Trans Mountain spokesperson said the 600-bed worker accommodation camp is currently at capacity (40 beds are quarantine beds, so capacity is 560). Of the 1100 people employed on the project in Valemount, approx. 476 are non-locals residing in the community.

Immunization details among Trans Mountain workers were not immediately available. Northern Health reported in mid-July that 75 per cent of residents age 12 and up in the Robson Valley have now been vaccinated with at least one dose.

“At this time we do not have statistics on the percentage of our workforce that is vaccinated,” a media spokesperson said.  “Trans Mountain is encouraging vaccination for all our workforce and have cooperated with provincial authorities to provide on-site clinics at our camp communities and worksites.”

Northern Health is encouraging Trans Mountain staff and residents in the Valemount area to be aware that COVID-19 continues to circulate, and to take preventive measures such as frequent hand-washing, mask-wearing, and getting vaccinated at their earliest opportunity.

According to the Northern Health statement, Trans Mountain has taken steps to reduce the chances of spread including enhanced employee screening, mandatory mask-wearing, and increased sanitization across the site and offering immunizations against COVID-19 to workers.