PEI

Rotational worker calls for easing of COVID-19 restrictions in P.E.I. 

A rotational worker from eastern P.E.I. is calling on the province to ease restrictions put in place in December.

‘None of us want to bring COVID home to our families, none of us want to bring it to you guys’ 

Jamie MacKinnon of Beach Point has been travelling back and forth between the Island and Alberta for more than 15 years. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

A rotational worker from eastern P.E.I. is calling on the province to ease restrictions put in place in December.

Jamie MacKinnon of Beach Point has been travelling back and forth between the Island and Alberta for more than 15 years. He's a supervisor for an oil service company. 

"None of us want to bring COVID home to our families, none of us want to bring it to you guys," said MacKinnon, who has never tested positive for COVID-19. 

He said that up until December, when the variant started to surface, he would return home to P.E.I. and get tested three times — but he was able to resume normal activities after his first test. He would simply have to monitor for symptoms.  

Now, MacKinnon said, there are restrictions placed on where he can go and what he can do for a full 14 days when he returns to the Island, no matter how he tests during the three required follow-up windows. That's on the first day back, between the fourth and sixth day back, and between the ninth and 11th day back. 

It's not 14 days of full isolation, but he's limited in where he can go and what he can do for those two weeks. As it stands now, he points out that workers can't go into the rink to see their children play hockey while they are home — or even get a haircut. 

MacKinnon said he doesn't want to put anybody in danger; he just wants a little more freedom. 

If you have two negative tests, you should be good to go.- Jamie MacKinnon

"If you have two negative tests, you should be good to go," he said after five people on the Island tested positive for COVID-19 after initially testing negative.

"A lot of people would like it to go back to the rules in December: You do your three tests, you filter into the community, you follow all the COVID protocol as the public does, and you monitor and you keep getting tested." 

More than 800 P.E.I. rotational workers

There are nearly 850 rotational workers registered with the province, according to officials with the chief public health office (CPHO). 

The CPHO says it recognizes the impacts that isolation requirements have on rotational workers and their families.  

P.E.I.'s Chief Public Health Office, led by Dr. Heather Morrison, says it has implemented a testing regime and modified isolation requirements that allow rotational workers to safely reunite with their families. (CBC)

In a statement to CBC News, it said: "In response, CPHO has implemented a testing regime and modified isolation requirements that allow rotational workers to reunite with their families, safely. Rotational workers who register with the province and follow the testing regime (days 0-1, 4-6, and 9-11) are permitted to be with their families and can participate in activities such as going for walks, snowmobiling and dropping family off at appointments." 

Asked how many rotational workers have tested positive for COVID-19, an official replied: "We cannot disclose the number of rotational workers who test positive."

However, news releases issued by the CPHO in late 2020 show at least three new cases of COVID-19 had involved a rotational worker:

  • On Oct. 20, the CPHO said a female rotational worker who had taken an Edmonton-Charlottetown flight tested negative on her first test and positive on the second. 
  • On Nov. 11, a male rotational worker was reported to have tested positive "during routine testing." 
  • On Dec. 3, a male rotational worker was confirmed as having COVID-19 after testing negative on the first test and positive on the second. 

'Take more precautions'

But MacKinnon said rotational workers are getting an unfair rap and he would like to change the public's perception of them.

"We probably take more precautions than most people do," he said.

That includes seeing his grandchildren at the end of the driveway, or in the parking lot of the local grocery store, until he received at least a second clear test.

We probably take more precautions than most people do.- Jamie MacKinnon

He has reached out to health officials and P.E.I. MLAs and has started a Facebook group to lobby on behalf of rotational workers. More than 100 people are now part of that group. 

MacKinnon credits Dr. Heather Morrison and the staff at the Chief Public Health Office for protecting Islanders. He said that when he is sitting around the camp in Alberta with people from across the country, P.E.I. is held up as the gold standard and he doesn't want that to change. 

'I feel safer flying'

But he doesn't believe rotational workers pose a threat to the province. 

"Our worksites and our camp, you wear your masks the whole time," said MacKinnon. "There's alcohol hand sanitizer, our kitchen is down to half capacity, we've closed our gym. In the office the masks are worn, we take our temperature every day.

"Travelling, the airports are empty. A lot of the flights are only half full. I feel safer flying than I would about going to possibly Walmart or Costco."   

More from CBC P.E.I.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

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