COVID-19’s third wave, fuelled largely by the B.1.1.7, B.1.351, and P.1 variants, affected nearly 3,000 people, decimating Canada’s oilsands workers notably in two outbreaks – CNRL Horizon and Mildred Lake, Syncrude.
Heather Yourex-West reported that federal exemptions were blamed for the outbreaks across the sites, as workers were brought in for maintenance work post-winter drilling.
Two people have died of COVID-19 while working in the oil sands. It was reported in mid-May that since the outbreak was initially announced, 1,361 people had been infected.
Yourex-West reported that 8,400 oilsands workers have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with doses being delivered on-site organized by Oil Sands Community Alliance and Alberta Health Services.
That number is sure to increase with recent announcements by Premier Kenney on people who have received their first dose will also be able to register for their second dose throughout June.
This is good for people of the Wood Buffalo area and the workers across myriad sites just north of Fort McMurray. Earlier in May, a state of emergency was declared in Wood Buffalo. It had workers fearing for their lives and concerned over their safety.
With workers brought in labelled essential and maintenance turnaround season (and not having to quarantine for two weeks) in full swing, it was a perfect storm for the pandemic ravage workers and companies. Workers said they weren’t making enough money sitting at home on employment insurance.
Companies have stated that strict safety protocols were in place during the outbreaks, including mask requirements and on-site testing. While measures can be put in place, work on those sites makes social distancing next to impossible, and that extends to camps, where there are thousands of workers in poorly ventilated and cramped areas.
With the vaccines being rapidly dispersed among oilsands workers, its benefits are vast – from worker health and safety to security of those workers – both of which play large roles in Canada’s economic recovery, rebound, and health.
According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Canada’s economy is in line for a big rebound throughout the remainder of 2021. The report said it expects the economy to grow 6.1% in 2021, up from March’s estimate of 4.7%.
Buoyed by increasing oil prices and relaxing COVID-19 restrictions, a life of normalcy is expected. With oil prices higher than in years past and a large demand for oil and gas products and services, the light at the end of the tunnel is clearer than it has been in 16 months.