New Brunswick

Moncton fire chief overseeing pandemic response goes into self-isolation

Moncton's fire chief, in charge of the city's emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic, has gone into self-isolation after learning he was among 70 people aboard a WestJet flight with a Prince Edward Island woman who tested positive.

Conrad Landry and another top city staffer show no symptoms after being on flight with sick passenger

Moncton Fire Chief Conrad Landry is continuing to work from home while in self-isolation after learning he was on a March 7 flight where one passenger later tested positive for COVID-19. (Kate Letterick/CBC News )

Moncton's fire chief, in charge of the city's emergency response to the coronavirus pandemic, has gone into self-isolation after learning he was among 70 people aboard a WestJet flight with a Prince Edward Island woman who tested positive. 

Conrad Landry told CBC in a phone interview from his home, where he'll remain in self-isolation until Sunday, that he feels fine and has no symptoms of COVID-19. 

"There's no signs at all from our family," Landry said. 

Landry, his family, and another senior city hall staff member were on the March 7 flight returning from a personal trip.

Landry said he was in Moncton's emergency operations centre on the sixth floor of city hall Tuesday afternoon when his wife texted him that Prince Edward Island called for those on the flight to self-isolate, given their potential exposure.

At the same time, he was watching a news conference where reporters asked Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, about the flight.

Landry said, after learning about his potential exposure, he left the operations centre to self-isolate and work from home. 

Working from home

Almost 24 hours later, he said he's yet to hear directly from public health or from the airline. He said he's not necessarily surprised at the lack of direct contact or prior warning.

"At this point, I'm not surprised, I think they have a full plate," Landry said.

Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the New Brunswick health department, said in an email that public health follows up on cases and their potential contacts using a risk assessment that looks at things like the seat location and if the case was walking around.

CBC News asked the province why New Brunswick hasn't been releasing information on flights and airports used by people who have tested positive. 

Macfarlane wrote that this "situation is different because the case was symptomatic during the flight and contacts require follow-up."

At a Wednesday afternoon news conference, Russell was asked whether Public Health had contacted those who were on the flight. She said Prince Edward Island health officials are working with New Brunswick in the province's southeast, "and they're working with those close contacts."

An request for comment from Prince Edward Island's Health Department wasn't answered Wednesday. 

Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick's chief medical officer of health, said public health officials in the southeastern part of the province were working to contact the people on the WestJet flight. (Silas Brown/Global News)

Isabelle LeBlanc, Moncton's director of communications, said neither Landry or the other staff member on the flight are showing symptoms and will continue to work from home until Sunday, the 14th day from the potential exposure on the flight. 

Prince Edward Island health officials announced the province's first case was a woman who flew on WestJet flight 3440 from Toronto to Moncton on March 7. All 70 people on the flight were asked to immediately self-isolate as they may have also been exposed.

WestJet said passengers in row seven to 11 may have been exposed. Landry said he was seated about six rows behind the person.

Landry leads Moncton's emergency operations centre, which has activated in response to the pandemic. Landry was in the centre Tuesday when he learned about the passenger testing positive. 

LeBlanc said he continues to work, but Charles LeBlanc, a division chief, has been designated as acting incident commander working from the emergency operations centre at city hall. 

Catherine Dallaire, Moncton's general manager of recreation, culture and events, was also on the March 7 flight. She's among several of the most senior staff at city hall.

Dallaire and Landry attended a Moncton city council meeting Monday.

Catherine Dallaire, Moncton's general manager of recreation, culture and events, shown at a committee meeting in January, was also on the March 7 flight. She's also in self-isolation. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Landry outlined the city's response to the pandemic. Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold and Coun. Susan Edgett were in the room, with other councillors taking part by video conference. 

Several other city staff were in the room, as well as members of the media and two members of the public. The city's spokesperson said the municipality is contacting those who were present and they are being advised to self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days. 

The spokesperson said neither Landry nor Dallaire had close contact with anyone else at the council meeting. 

Landry said he was comfortable going public with what happened to him to show how even top officials are heeding directions to self-isolate. 

"I think it's important to show that we practise what we preach, and to show that this is very serious," Landry said. 

About the Author

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC.

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