Cannabis worker tests positive for COVID-19 at Tilray facility in Ontario

May 13, 2020

When Ontario released its list of essential workplaces at the start of the coronavirus panic in late March, cannabis businesses across the province were relieved to learn that the industry would be exempt from the government-ordered shutdown imposed across most of the economy.

With the industry already struggling before the emergence of COVID-19, a complete shutdown of all businesses, from dispensaries to cultivators, would have had a drastic effect.

Moreover, according to Marijuana Business Daily, more than half of Canada’s 337 federal license holders are located in Ontario, making it the unofficial hub for the country’s marijuana sector. Deeming it essential was...well...essential.

The license to operate during these uncertain times came with a call from government officials that all proper precautions be taken to protect employees and consumers from spreading the virus. “We call on workplaces that remain open to be vigilant and to enforce the highest possible standards of cleanliness and caution as we continue the fight together against COVID-19,” Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade Vic Fedeli said in a statement at the time.

And while the cannabis industry has done a banner job upholding standards of cleanliness and hygiene against a virus most health officials still know little about, it was inevitable that mistakes would happen.

On Wednesday, Marijuana Business Daily reported that one of Tilray’s subsidiaries briefly closed down a greenhouse following a positive COVID-19 test from one of its workers. The facility is located in Leamington and run by High Park Gardens, which was acquired by Tilray last year.

“Work was temporarily suspended the evening of May 11 while we conducted thorough contact tracing, sanitation, and cleaning protocols,” a spokeswoman told Marijuana Business Daily. “The local Health Unit has advised us to continue to operate with our Enhanced Health & Safety protocols and maintain contact with them in the days ahead.”

As of Wednesday, no other employees or contract workers had been reported as having tested positive for COVID-19. However, it was noted by Marijuana Business Daily that at least four workers on the same shift and possibly another eight people might have been in contact with the person in question.

According to reports, the company does have a plan in place for coronavirus outbreaks, as well as a business continuity plan. These plans include social distancing measures, mandated work-from-home for non-essential employees, and 14-day quarantine for anyone who comes in contact with an infected individual.

“The use of non-medical masks is authorized on-site in common areas, enforced screening questionnaires prior to entering the site are still in place, and all employees are equipped with PPE as required when handling product,” a spokeswoman told Marijuana Business Daily.

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