Thunder Bay

New cluster of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases at Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, Ont.

COVID-19 test results have come back positive for six staff members at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, Ont. However, the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) said at a Monday press conference that all six people are asymptomatic and there has been no outbreak of illness.

Positive COVID-19 test results have come back for six staff members at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre

COVID-19 test results have come back positive for six of 147 staff members at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, Ont. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Six staff members at the Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, Ont., have tested positive for COVID-19.  However, officials with the Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) were quick to note at a media conference on Monday afternoon that all six people are asymptomatic and there has been no outbreak of illness.

All six individuals are currently in isolation, and officials with the NWHU, as well as Meno Ya Win and the Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority  (SLFNHA) are tracing contacts. At the time of the media briefing, 18 people in Sioux Lookout were identified as having come in close contact with the six asymptomatic individuals, and are also now in isolation.

Further screening of staff members and patients at Meno Ya Win is underway.

Testing completed as part of voluntary screening initiative

Heather Lee, the CEO of the Sioux Lookout health centre, also noted that the people who tested positive were working at the health centre itself, and were not involved in the extended care facility.

The testing was completed as part of a voluntary screening initiative for staff members.

"The staff surveillance was done as a result of some anxiety that people had and potential for contacts out in the community. So we opened up surveillance testing for our staff to help give them a sense of comfort and just to see if there was any uptake in the virus," Lee said.

Approximately 147 staff members have been tested for COVID-19, which is about one-third of the total staff at Meno Ya Win.

'No evidence' of spread to remote First Nations at this time

Dr. John Guilfoyle, a public health physician with the SLFNHA, said there is no evidence of COVID-19 spread to First Nations in the region, but enhanced surveillance measures are being put in place to minimize the risk of further infections.

Guilfoyle added that community members returning home after treatment in Sioux Lookout, as well as community physicians and nursing staff returning to work in First Nations communities, will be tested prior to departure.

He also reissued an appeal to any community members in northern First Nations with any symptoms to call the nursing stations and receive a test.

Dr. Ian Gemmill, the acting medical health officer for the NWHU, said that after a period of considerable backlogs of testing results, capacity to run COVID-19 tests in northwestern Ontario has improved in recent weeks.

"The tests [for Meno Ya Win staff members] were done on Thursday and Friday, and we heard back by Sunday. So we are talking about a two-to-three day turnaround time, and I think the issue of backlog ... is behind us now."

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