The province's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, says the investigation into Manitoba's first fatal coronavirus case -- a woman in her 60s -- "would be completed" by now, but he wouldn't say whether any of her co-workers had become infected.
"If the person was infectious while they (were) at work, then definitely the workplace would have been involved in the investigation," he said Monday. "And any co-workers who had close contact with that individual would have been contacted and advised to self-isolate and monitor for symptoms."
The Free Press has confirmed that Margaret Sader, who worked at Sinclair Dental in Winnipeg, was Manitoba's first COVID-19 fatality. The company supplies dentists with equipment and does equipment repairs.
Roussin said Manitoba would not release personal health information concerning individual cases unless there was a public health reason to do so.
"I can't really speak to which contacts of which individual have tested positive," he said Monday, "but certainly if that individual was ill while they're at work that investigation would have been done."
One source with knowledge of staffing at Sinclair Dental told the Free Press another of the staff members had tested positive for COVID-19.
Victor Michaud, Sinclair Dental's chief operating officer, referred all Free Press questions on Monday to provincial health authorities.
Several Canadian positive coronavirus tests have been linked to a large dental convention in Vancouver March 5-7 that drew dentists and dental suppliers from across the country, including an untold number from Manitoba.
At his daily briefing on Monday, Roussin said provincial public health officials sent letters to Manitoba attendees at that conference "weeks ago" to advise them of the need to self-isolate. He noted that the incubation period for contracting the disease at the conference had now passed.
"I don't have in front of me" the number of Manitoba cases that may have been linked to the conference, Roussin said. "Our efforts haven't really been focussed on disclosing that publicly."
He said he's satisfied that dental association communications and media reports about the conference precluded the need for a separate public alert from his office.
"I think the messaging was very broad... and I think it did reach everyone that was affected," he said.
On Monday, Manitoba announced its first COVID-19 case in the Northern Health Region, which covers a vast area that includes Flin Flon, The Pas, Thompson, Lac Brochet and Tadoule Lake
Roussin would not identify the affected community, saying there was no public need to do so.
"It does not help the public to know the specific locations of these cases because we are asking everyone to stay home (and) practise social distancing at all times," he said at one point.
If someone with a positive test had been in close contact with a number of people that couldn't readily be identified, public health officials would not hesitate to announce that publicly, Roussin said.
"If there was a reason to announce where a specific case was and the location, public health definitely would do so," he said.
-- with files from Maggie Macintosh
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
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