Contact tracing on a Prince Edward Island case of COVID-19 announced Sunday has uncovered a new case, a man in his 40s who is a health-care worker at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown.
The man was tested Sunday and results came back positive Sunday evening.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said the man had travelled to P.E.I. on WestJet Flight 654 from Toronto on July 2. He initially tested negative for the coronavirus, showed no symptoms, and worked seven shifts at the hospital between July 4 and 11.
As an essential worker, the man was able to work-isolate, that is, go to work but isolate at home while not on shift.
“Essential health-care workers who travel or arrive from elsewhere in Canada have been able to work as long as they are tested immediately before reporting to work and wear appropriate PPE,” said Morrison.
“This protocol for essential health-care workers is consistent with practices in other provinces.”
The case announced Sunday involved a woman in her 80s who lives in Queens County. In a briefing Monday morning, Morrison said the woman came in contact with the health-care worker during a visit to the hospital’s emergency department on July 4.
The woman was transported to the QEH by ambulance and spent her time at the hospital in a private room, Morrison said, and did not have any contact with any other patients.
Contact tracing has been completed for the Queens County woman. It is now underway for the health-care worker.
“I have confidence in the ability of this system to identify all the patients cared for by this individual,” Morrison said.
One hundred patients and 125 hospital staff have been identified as contacts of the health-care worker at the hospital. In addition, three personal contacts of the health-care worker have been isolated and tested. Contact tracing and testing on this most recent case is expected to be completed within 48 hours.
Morrison said a second round of testing would be needed for some contacts.
When the man returned to P.E.I. July 2, he was tested for the coronavirus as provincial protocols required. That test came back negative. He returned to work July 4. He was tested again as part of contact tracing in connection with the most recent case, and that test came back positive.
With this latest case, P.E.I. has a total of eight active cases of COVID-19 among the 35 the province has confirmed since the pandemic began. None of the most recent positive cases are in hospital.
Visitor restrictions have now been put in place at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Island’s biggest health-care facility. No visitors are allowed except in labour and delivery, pediatrics and ICU. Visitors will be limited to two, and people will need to call ahead.
Morrison said these two new cases are not related to the opening of the Atlantic bubble or to seasonal residents. She did say, however, that this event does have a potential impact on any consideration of opening the province up to any further parts of Canada.
If we need to scale back, whether it’s travel, whether it’s other aspects of our Renew P.E.I. plan, if the evidence suggests and Dr. Morrison advises, then we will do that.— Premier Dennis King
“Although ultimately it’s not my decision, I believe it would be premature today to be considering a further loosening of our border restrictions and encouraging broader travel,” said Morrison.
Morrison said the outbreak is a further reminder that people need to pay attention to the basics of infection control during the pandemic: washing hands, keeping your circle of contacts small, and wearing a mask while inside in public spaces.
“I have been saying for weeks that it has not gone away and we must remain vigilant,” she said.
“Now more than ever, I am pleading with Islanders and visitors to our province to pay attention to public health measures.”
Premier Dennis King also attended the briefing.
The next 24 to 48 hours will be critical in determining the extent of this outbreak, King said.
“We have remained quite open with the fact that if we need to scale back, whether it’s travel, whether it’s other aspects of our Renew P.E.I. plan, if the evidence suggests and Dr. Morrison advises, then we will do that,” King said.
It is not a question of numbers, he said, but whether officials can determine if the outbreak is contained.