13 Western Health staff in isolation due to prior COVID-19 case
Western Health also asking general public to seek testing
Thirteen health-care workers are self-isolating — and some people in western Newfoundland are being encouraged to get tested, even if they do not have symptoms — following a positive COVID-19 test involving a Western Health staff member.
The Western Health region has reported seven cases since Friday, and health officials are still trying to find the source of two of them.
The latest was identified in an email sent by the Health Department late Sunday night — a man in his 40s who the department said is a close contact of a previous case, but is not connected to four cases that had been announced in the Western region Saturday.
Western Health told CBC News in an emailed statement that one of Saturday's four cases was a Western Health employee, and that it has resulted in other staff having to self-isolate.
The health authority didn't say whether the person is a front-line worker or had been in contact with patients.
"All staff members who are considered close contacts have been contacted and testing has been arranged. At this time, 13 staff members are self-isolating due to this case. There is no impact to patients or patient care," the statement said.
"The safety of patients, clients, residents, staff and physicians remains Western Health's top priority as we continue to respond to COVID-19 pandemic."
Testing sites set up in Corner Brook, Meadows
The health authority has testing sites in Corner Brook and Meadows on the north shore of the Bay of Islands, and wants people in those areas to get tested for the virus, even if they don't have symptoms, as part of an effort "to determine how community members may have acquired COVID-19 and whether there has been transmission within the community."
Dr. Monika Dutt, Western Health's medical officer of health, told CBC News on Monday that there is a slight indication that someone might have picked up the infection from within the community, but the picture isn't completely clear and the health authority wanted to be proactive.
Two drive-thru testing sites, which are running from Monday to Wednesday, were completely booked as of Monday afternoon.
"What we decided to do is take each day as it goes. So we've booked three days of testing, we are going to assess the information each day as we do the testing [and] get the results," Dutt said.
Western Health is using rapid antigen testing for "some immediate information" and may revise the approach if necessary, she said.
"If we need to expand, if we need to target certain areas, or groups need to extend the days of testing we will absolutely do that."
About 1,500 tests have been booked. Additionally, anyone else who is symptomatic can still receive a test.
"If you have even mild symptoms you will still be tested. So, please do call us because those are the groups that we especially want to have tested," she said.
Dutt said there's no indication to expand testing beyond residents of the area, but if evidence shows there's a risk beyond the community, that may apply to people who may have travelled to the area ahead of finding the new cases, testing will then be expanded. "But right now, we haven't seen that," she said.
More information on testing is available on the Western Health website.