2023 first nations forestry
Mar 2021 Taking the temperature of a planter as part of pre-work COVID screening on a crew in the south interior earlier this month. Rapid antigen testing, which became available this spring, has been added to their safety protocols by many contractors. The WFCA has asked health authorities to make vaccinating planters a priority as essential workers.
Planting crews in Alberta and British Columbia are now in the field, or just about to mobilize, as the spring seasonal reforestation campaign enters an interregnum between implementing pre-work preventative COVID measures and discovering if any virus has made it onto crews and into camps.
Over 5000 workers in the two provinces are under heightened social distancing, cohort management, and COVID symptom monitoring protocols for at least two weeks.
After that period crews in BC can expand their cohorts and resume more normal socializing provided they have remained virus-free and stay isolated from communities.
Alberta is expected to allow similar relief to crews as talks between that province’s health authorities and the forest industry continue.
In some cases, British Columbia interior planting crews have been at work already for a number of weeks. Northern Health had cause this week to close two companies operating jointly out of Quesnel when more than three workers tested positive for COVID. The whole crew is now in quarantine.
Nevertheless, strict following of best practices and Orders has so far limited the rest of the sector, comprising over 4000 workers in the field, to three positive cases in which only one cohort required isolation.
The WFCA had expected an infection rate of around one percent given recent pandemic trends. The next two weeks should show if that was pessimistic, accurate, or optimistic. So far so good, it seems, with the early west coast planting season completed with only one infection among an estimated 400 workers.