Work at the Site C dam will only be allowed to ramp up gradually this month under a new Covid-19 public health order.
In the Dec. 29 order, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says there has been “a rapid increase” in the number of people working on industrial projects in the north that are testing positive for the virus. That’s increasing the risk of community outbreaks, as well as hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, and death, she said.
“The current seasonal slow-down in large-scale industrial operations provides an opportunity to help break the cycle of transmission of COVID-19 associated with them,” Henry writes in her order.
“A rapid return to full operating capacity on the part of large-scale industrial operations, with the attendant rapid return of large numbers of workers to the worksites and industrial camps, will likely further fuel and accelerate the cycle of transmission of COVID-19 among the workers and the surrounding communities.”
There were 584 active cases reported across northern B.C. as of Dec. 31, including 38 in hospital, 18 of them in critical care.
As of Monday, there were 369 workers at the Site C camp outside Fort St. John. BC Hydro has reported 30 cases among Site C workers since last March — 27 of those cases have recovered. Three workers are currently in self-isolation.
Under Henry’s order, BC Hydro will be allowed to add another 400 workers to the site by Jan. 7, and increase to 1,100 by late January.
There were a record 5,181 workers employed on Site C in October, including a record high 1,144 Peace region residents employed as construction and non-construction contractors. There were 1,400 workers reported at the camp in early December before numbers dropped heading into Christmas.
Henry's order also applies to the LNG Canada, Coastal GasLink, and Trans Mountain construction sites.
LNG Canada is allowed a base of 450 workers, and to ramp up to 1,100 workers by late January. One outbreak related to that project was declared over on Christmas Day.
Coastal GasLink is allowed a base of 400 workers, and to ramp up to 1,000 workers in early to mid-February. Outbreaks have been reported at two project work camps.
Trans Mountain is allowed a base of 50 workers, and to ramp up to 600 workers in early to mid-February.
The order also covers construction works at the Rio Tinto smelter and powerhouse.
Henry says project managers must submit workforce management plans to both herself and Northern Health for approval before being allowed to increase their workforces.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.