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Shell reports 61 new cracker plant covid cases this week

Sixty-one new COVID-19 cases were reported at Beaver County’s cracker plant this week, bringing the total number since March to 335.


POTTER TWP. — Coronavirus cases continue to grow at Shell Chemicals’ ethane cracker plant site as COVID-19’s third wave hammers the region.

Sixty-one new virus cases were reported at Beaver County’s petrochemical complex this week, bringing the total number since March to 335. Since mid-November, total cases have tripled.

At least 97 employees are currently positive for the virus among the facility’s approximately 7,950 workforce, company leadership said, down from 101 on Dec. 3. Since March, 238 site employees have recovered and returned to work.

“Most, if not all, have been traced back to contacts and behaviors while away from the job site,” Shell representatives said in a statement.

Company leadership recently expanded COVID-19 testing capabilities at the plant to accommodate workers traveling for the holidays. Managers doubled testing capabilities from 200 daily tests to 400 daily tests in preparation.

Site leadership implemented voluntary testing this week for all on-site workers, too.

With these tests, results are typically available within four to five hours, Shell said. Site safety leaders also recently added rapid-result antigen tests. There will be five antigen testing labs at the plant, and each can test six samples concurrently and return results within 15 minutes.

This new testing will allow managers to double the current capacity to perform approximately 400 antigen tests per day.

Total reported cases among ethane cracker plant workers have surged recently as COVID-19 transmission rates grow in Beaver County and Pennsylvania. The plant has seen 263 new infections since Oct. 30, representing 78.5% of total on-site cases reported since March.

Anyone joining or rejoining the workforce must undergo testing that includes a COVID-19 test with same-day results, and those exposed to the virus are not permitted to return without a negative test result. Workers are required to wear masks, socially distance at lunch and submit to daily temperature screenings. Health professionals are now performing on-site contact tracing.

“We continue to encourage our workers to take steps to protect their health and safety and the health and safety of the community while away from the worksite,” said Hilary Mercer, vice president of Shell Pennsylvania Chemicals. “We believe it is our responsibility to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our communities safe when we leave here.”

Leaders may adapt practices as conditions and guidelines change, but company officials report no plans to suspend construction operations at this time.


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