Province issues rare public warning about COVID exposure

Manitoba public health officials warned Monday of a possible COVID-19 exposure at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Winnipeg — a rare move by the province since code red restrictions were imposed four months ago.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 08/03/2021 (702 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba public health officials warned Monday of a possible COVID-19 exposure at a Ukrainian Catholic church in Winnipeg — a rare move by the province since code red restrictions were imposed four months ago.

The exposure on March 4 was at St. Andrew’s Ukrainian Catholic Church, at 160 Euclid Ave. in Point Douglas, between 11 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Monday there were around 40 close contacts associated with the exposure, adding all those at high risk have been contacted.

The exposure occurred during a two-hour funeral visitation for Rev. Emil Kardasinec, a longtime parishioner of the church, before he served as a priest in parishes in and around The Pas and Neepawa, the Archbishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy of Winnipeg confirmed Monday.

Metropolitan Lawrence Huculak said people came through briefly to pay their respects, then left the building before the private 1 p.m. funeral.

He said all safety protocols were followed, with a volunteer asking health questions and taking names before allowing people to enter. Less than 10 people were allowed inside at one time, and everyone was required to wear a mask and maintain two-metre social distancing.

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said Monday there were approximately 40 close contacts linked to an exposure during a two-hour funeral visitation at St. Andrew's Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press files)

But the archbishop questioned why this possible exposure was publicized by provincial health authorities. He also wondered if no other possible exposures occurred in the previous four months or if they were just not announced.

“In this case, by issuing this letter, is it just trying to show churches are not a safe place?” asked Huculak.

The name of the source of the possible exposure was not provided to Huculak and the church was not issued any fines, he said.

The priest of St. Andrews parish declined to comment.

Since COVID-19 began to spread rapidly across Manitoba in the fall, most provincial-exposure notices have involved transit routes, with outbreaks at schools or child-care facilities occasionally listed. The province publicly tracks outbreaks at hospitals and other health-care facilities.

The last time a business or church was listed as the site of a possible exposure was Nov. 13, according to public notices posted online by the province. That was just a day after code-red restrictions were implemented across Manitoba.

A provincial spokesperson said exposure notifications slowed down in the last few months because many public spaces were closed.

Winnipeg epidemiologist Cynthia Carr agreed the province’s “significant shutdown” played a role in fewer exposure notices.

“So many of these businesses or opportunities to congregate actually weren’t operating,” she said.

Carr noted as Manitoba relaxes lockdown restrictions and allows more people to gather, the risk of public spread will slowly increase.

“It’s not blaming anybody– we have to remember that we’re most infectious in the two days prior to showing symptoms” — Cynthia Carr, epidemiologist

Exposure notifications can be helpful, she said — as long as enough information is provided.

“What you don’t want is to name a business or location and there’s no specific information,” Carr said. “You have to know on what day, at what time. You have to know what the likelihood is that you have actually had contact to the point that you might be at risk.”

Stigmatizing businesses or churches isn’t the point of exposure notices, Carr said.

“It’s not blaming anybody — we have to remember that we’re most infectious in the two days prior to showing symptoms,” she said.

The impetus remains, she said, for the public to wear masks, social distance and follow the fundamentals as much as possible.

Roussin acknowledged it may be hard for grieving families to maintain their distance at funerals which still see high rates of transmission in Manitoba and abroad.

“This is challenging enough as it is, it’s going to be challenging enough during a pandemic, but now add to that you have to follow these restrictions,” he said. “But they are there to protect the health of the public as we see a lot of transmission.”

— with files from Brenda Suderman

julia-simone.rutgers@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @jsrutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers
Reporter

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.

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Updated on Monday, March 8, 2021 9:41 PM CST: Fixes typos.

Updated on Monday, March 8, 2021 11:24 PM CST: Fixes typo.

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