Provincial health officials alerted the public Tuesday a staff member at the Selkirk hospital has tested positive for COVID-19. They refused to say how many other Manitoba health-care workers have contracted the virus.
Chief provincial public health officer Dr. Brent Roussin said the employee worked in the Selkirk Regional Health Centre emergency department and medicine ward March 19-23 — despite having symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
"How a symptomatic person was working for three days, I can't answer that," Roussin told a media briefing. "Health-care workers are closely monitoring their symptoms and should report any symptoms immediately to occupational health and safety."
The Manitoba Nurses Union said several nurses who came into contact with the staff member at the hospital are now self-isolating at home.
Roussin said public health, occupational health and infection prevention and control staff are investigating the case and following up with all close contacts, including staff and patients.
He said the health worker contracted the coronavirus through travel within Canada. The person did not self-isolate because, at that time, the directive on self-isolation pertained only to international travel.
Public health officials are contacting anyone who had close or prolonged contact with the staffer when the individual was symptomatic, Roussin said. "People with concerns can contact Health Links to speak to a nurse about the situation."
Because of the large number of potential contacts, Roussin said he decided to release details of the case "for public health reasons."
Roussin refused Tuesday to provide details about other Manitoba health-care workers who have contracted COVID-19 — or to say how many have become infected.
The MNU revealed a Winnipeg ER nurse had tested positive for the coronavirus, something the chief public health officer would not confirm.
The nurses union said it believes the nurse contracted the virus while tending to patients sick with the disease. She is currently recovering in self-isolation at home.
Asked Tuesday whether there had been any evidence of a Manitoba health-care worker becoming infected with COVID-19 in the workplace, Roussin said the province has been "investigating some cases where that type of transmission is considered."
Other jurisdictions, including Alberta and Ontario, have updated the public on the numbers of health workers testing positive. Roussin didn't rule out providing such information in the future.
On Tuesday, the province announced seven additional coronavirus cases, bringing the Manitoba total 103.
Three individuals were in hospital, two of them in intensive care. Four individuals have recovered from the virus. The total number of COVID-19 deaths in the province remains at one.
Roussin said the total number of cases to date is within the range Manitoba health professionals had predicted by this stage.
The Free Press | Newsletter
What you need to know now about gardening in Winnipeg. A monthly email from the Free Press with advice, ideas and tips to keep your outdoor and indoor plants growing.
"The severity (of cases) tends to be at the lower end of what our predictions are, but it's quite early right now," he said.
"How a symptomatic person was working for three days, I can't answer that." Dr. Brent Roussin
Meanwhile, the province is putting out a call for nurses with critical care experience to step forward as it plans to ramp up for COVID-19 cases in hospital.
Lanette Siragusa, chief nursing officer at Shared Health, said the province is looking for registered nurses with previous adult or pediatric critical care experience who may be willing to pick up additional shifts or to be redeployed to another hospital if need be.
Carol Sanders Legislature reporter
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
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.