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A worker at an oil sands camp north of Fort McMurray, Alta., is awaiting results of a COVID-19 test after spending a night at Borealis Lodge, operated by U.S-based Civeo Corp.

Companies associated with camps and lodges for oil sands workers have ratcheted up efforts to keep the novel coronavirus away from the crowded living quarters. Measures range from developing software that flags people who may be at risk before they board flights to remote facilities – as is the case at Borealis Lodge – to ending self-serve buffets in cafeterias.

In an e-mailed statement from Civeo spokesman Regan Nielsen on Friday, the company said the person showed no symptoms when they were screened upon arrival at the camp on Wednesday. Symptoms started the next morning, and the worker was taken to a Fort McMurray hospital by ambulance. They are now at home in self-isolation waiting for the test results.

The person’s room was placed under quarantine, and an investigation determined the guest spent less than 12 hours on location, most of which was overnight in their quarters. Civeo then completed a thorough cleaning of any place the person was believed to have spent time.

The company said it is controlling access to the lodge’s common areas and practising social distancing. On Thursday, it notified all guests and staff at Borealis Lodge about the suspected COVID-19 case.

Tom McMillan of Alberta Health Services (AHS) said just because someone is tested for COVID-19 doesn’t mean they have the virus.

“We are conducting thousands of tests, and the overwhelming majority come back negative,” he told The Globe and Mail.

“If someone were to test positive, AHS would take immediate action to isolate them and anyone believed to be exposed, and protect the public health.”

The lodge, primarily for Suncor Base Camp workers, is about 22 kilometres north of Fort McMurray. It has more than 1,500 rooms, a gym and recreation rooms, according to the Civeo website.

Thousands of people who work in the oil sands live in camps and lodges in Northern Alberta, rotating in and out on private flights. Communal living defines the camps. Workers share bedrooms, washrooms, and elbow space in lunchrooms. The camps, as a result, are potential hot-spots for the virus that causes COVID-19.

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