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Over 300 workers at Barrick's Hemlo mine are self-isolating due to COVID-19

The Town of Marathon has closed municipal facilities as a precaution.

The COVID-19 outbreak at Barrick Gold's Hemlo mine, east of Marathon, has now put more than 300 workers into self-isolation while efforts continue to stop the spread of the virus.

However, it hasn't stopped the mine from operating.

Between 600 and 700 people normally work at the site.

Barrick Hemlo's sustainability manager, Karen Osadchuk, said 302 people, including employees and contractors, are currently in isolation, although not all of them are directly involved with everyday mining operations.

Osadchuk said a "business containment plan" is in place to keep the mine running, meaning that priorities have been adjusted to accommodate the downsized workforce.

As of Tuesday morning, Barrick had not yet been notified of any positive COVID-19 test results involving the individuals in isolation.

Osadchuk said the affected workers are currently scheduled to return to their jobs by Dec. 14.

The outbreak at the mine was declared by the Thunder Bay District Health Unit on Dec. 3, and involves four workers.

Over the weekend, Barrick announced it had identified nine underground shifts during which other employees or contractors may have been exposed.

Anyone who worked these shifts between Nov. 21 and Nov. 29 was directed on Saturday to go into self-isolation.

All are considered to be high-risk contacts, and follow-up testing is being done.

The health unit has said the mine has taken numerous measures to guard against further exposure to the workforce, and that further measures will be taken as required.

The Marathon Family Health Team and North of Superior Healthcare Group said Monday there are currently 10 positive COVID-19 cases in Marathon.

Two cases involved the Holy Saviour School community, where all instruction has now been moved online.

One resident of Marathon described Tuesday how "everyone is on pins and needles."

Town officials have announced the temporary closure of the arena, swimming pool and community hall.

The situation will be re-evaluated on Dec. 19.

Town hall is also closed until Dec. 21.

Mayor Rick Dumas said, "With the advancing COVID situation... we need to limit the amount of people interactions as well as protect our essential municipal staff."

– TBNewsWatch