Manitoba government staff at same conference as man now confirmed with coronavirus

Coronavirus worries have forced some Manitoba government employees home from work.

Employees told to leave work and contact Health Links

An isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19 is seen in a transmission electron microscopic image obtained from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga., on March 10. (Hanna A. Bullock, Azaibi Tamin/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Reuters)

Coronavirus worries have forced some Manitoba government employees home from work.

A provincial spokesperson told CBC News the employees were at an international mining conference in Toronto on March 2 and 3.

Ontario Public Health officials have since confirmed a a man from Sudbury, who was also at the conference, has tested positive for COVID-19.

The man, in his 50s, was experiencing coughing and shortness of breath and went to the emergency department on Saturday.

"In an abundance of caution, all Manitoba government employees that attended the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada 2020 convention in Toronto have been asked to remove themselves from work and directed to contact Health Links," the Manitoba government spokesperson said in a statement.

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"We can confirm that all appropriate precautions and procedures are being followed."

The government won't provide any additional information, citing the privacy act and personal health information.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended the conference and spoke on March 2.

Another person there was Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook, who has chosen to go into self-isolation.

Her job typically requires her to be in many group settings and she doesn't want to get anyone sick, if that risk exists, she said.

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"Seeing how I was at the conference for the whole time and I did meet a lot of people, I have just decided I would take a couple days off," Smook said.

She said she'll take in meetings via conference call and do whatever other work she can from home.

"I've been told that there's absolutely nothing to worry about, that I wouldn't have passed it on. I wash my hands more than regularly, especially when I'm out shaking hands with people these days," Smook said.

"It was just a little bit of a proactive move on my part."

She first heard about the positive case on Tuesday night.

"What went through my mind is that we want to keep it out of Manitoba …  so we need to do our part to make sure that it doesn't get a foothold in Manitoba," Smook said.

"I just hope I haven't put any fear into people unnecessarily."

There is a city council meeting set for Monday and Smook is planning to be there "unless something changes."

Tuesday will mark two weeks since she was at the conference, which is the amount of time health officials say is needed for symptoms to show up.