Don Preece knows first-hand what it’s like to get sick while working at one of B.C.’s remote work camps.
He came down with what he said was referred to as “the Kitimat cough” for three weeks, after a virus ripped through the Rio Tinto smelter work camp in that northwestern town for three weeks in 2013.
“Twenty-one days coughing up phlegm, fevers — and they still don’t know what hit us,” he said.
“They said ‘Oh, we’ve got all the protocols in for hand washing.’ They had people in there opening the doors for us. But you can not control a 500- or 600-man camp and monitor everything that every other person touches. It’s impossible.”
On Wednesday, Preece’s son, who’s an ironworker, flew to the Two Rivers Site C dam work camp to join a crew of about 1,300.
The work camp near Fort St. John remains open.
BC Hydro said Tuesday there have been no recorded confirmed or presumptive cases of COVID-19 at the camp, and that work was proceeding to ensure the project hits critical deadlines.
The utility said it’s implemented protocols, including shutting the gym and ending self-service dining, to prevent the virus from spreading, but Preece said he’s doubtful.
“People just don’t understand how many things people touch every day,” he said.
“You just can’t help the spread when you’re in such close quarters working with people, living with them, and then having to eat with them in the same place.”
Preece said he’s worried the camp could become a hotbed of viral infection, and he warned that people from across Canada and around the world could carry it away from the site if there is an outbreak.
On Tuesday, the B.C. Building Trades Council called for all large scale remote megaprojects to be scaled down.
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