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The people who cared for a COVID-19 patient: How a single case was handled – Keremeos Review

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The call came in on an afternoon in March: a patient at a medical clinic in Vancouver complained of chest pains.

Paramedic Jeffrey Booton watched the details flash across the screen as he and his partner made their way to the clinic.

It was his first potential case of COVID-19 and he felt both trepidation and a sense of duty.

“I see this job as working in the service of people. And getting to do so in the context of a pandemic is obviously wrought with fear and apprehension some days, but it’s work that still resonates with me,” he said.

When Booton arrived, he put on protective gloves, a fluid-repellent gown, N-95 mask and face shield over his freshly buzzed dark hair — an at-home haircut that turned out shorter than planned.

After a physical exam, they got back in the ambulance and Booton did what he always tries to do: comfort the patient. Paramedics see people during what can be pivotal personal moments and Booton felt the weight of the patient’s worry. As they travelled together towards St. Paul’s Hospital, he told the patient what he could expect in the emergency department and what types of tests he might undergo.

“I can only imagine what he was feeling in that moment, but it must have felt like a true sense of vulnerability to what uncertainty lay ahead,” Booton said.

Booton was one of at least 125 health workers, ranging from dispatchers and nurses to hospital housekeepers, who cared for the patient.

On that day, the patient was among 55 identified by dispatchers as possible COVID-19 cases in Vancouver.

Since the pandemic began, more than 50,000 people in Canada have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and federal government figures say at least 2,900 people have been hospitalized.

This is the story of those who cared for a single case at St. Paul’s.

In the emergency department

Dr. Shannon O’Donnell knew she had only a few minutes to prepare after paramedics phoned the hospital to warn that a suspected COVID-19 case was on the way.

“I was a little anxious,” she said. “We don’t know what we’re getting, how much distress a patient is going to be in or how sick they’ll be. And you know, you’re worried also about being exposed to infection.”

The department had been eerily quiet after beds were vacated and the workflow was overhauled to make room for a possible surge in COVID-19 cases, O’Donnell said. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recently announced the province has been able to control the spread of the virus, but the caseload was still growing when the patient arrived.

The paramedics brought the patient directly into a negative pressure room set up for high-risk cases. Glass walls allow for filtration changes to reduce the risk of the virus spreading by air.

Like everyone the patient would interact with, O’Donnell examined him through a heavy armour of personal protective equipment. He was one of the sicker patients she’d seen.

“What was most striking to me was that he did require oxygen, but he also had a very high respiratory rate. He was breathing 30 breaths per minute, whereas you or I would breathe 15 or 16 breaths per minute,” she said.

COVID-19 has transformed not only the hospital but O’Donnell’s home life, too. She and her husband, also an emergency doctor, juggle the full-time care of their three children at home since schools closed.

Together, they decided that if there were a major outbreak, one would work at the hospital and self-isolate from the family, while the other would care for the kids.

“My husband likened it to both of us running into a burning building at the same time.”

O’Donnell ordered blood work, chest X-rays and an electrocardiogram scan, and conducted a chest ultrasound with the help of registered nurse Rachel Mrdeza.

For Mrdeza, some of the hardest cases have been the older patients who arrive incredibly short of breath, with a fever and chest tightness. Emergency department workers don’t typically learn if patients have COVID-19 because the test results come back after they move on from their care, but there can be strong evidence of the virus.

“You know they’re in the window of vulnerability for having quite a dire outcome from COVID. That is really hard to see,” she said.

Under normal circumstances, the emergency doctor would work with several nurses but only one is allowed in the isolation room at a time to protect against contagion.

By the time QianQian Wu began her night shift, she was only the third nurse to see the patient.

Despite the promising case numbers in B.C., Wu said staff don’t feel like they can relax. St. Paul’s Hospital is the main treatment centre for vulnerable residents on the city’s Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood that faces another public health emergency from the overdose crisis.

Wu began her shift by putting on the uncomfortable protective gear that she would wear all night. She tries to stay hydrated before work because she knows she can’t drink water with the mask on.

“It’s a little hard to breath sometimes,” she said. “And sometimes you get sleepy with it on for a long time, it’s very warm.”

Wu took the patient’s vitals and talked to him about his family and friends. She also noticed his laboured breathing.

The testing process

While the patient waited in the emergency department, blood samples and swabs were sent to the hospital’s laboratory.

Dr. Marc Romney, medical director of medical microbiology and virology, said manual molecular testing for COVID-19 typically requires five to 10 lab staff.

“It’s not like a pregnancy test you get from London Drugs, it’s much more complicated,” Romney said.

A porter transports the specimen, a technologist reviews whether it was ordered and labelled properly, then two or three technologists conduct a multistep process involving the extraction, purification, amplification and detection of the virus’s genetic material. A senior technologist and one or two physicians review the results before they are sent back to the attending physician and infection control team.

But the virology lab was transformed by the arrival of a machine in March that automates part of the process.

The Roche cobas 6800 system was adapted from HIV testing and lifted the lab’s theoretical capacity up to 2,000 tests per day, in combination with manual testing.

WATCH: New COVID-19 testing machine takes load off B.C.’s virologists and labs

Romney excitedly talks about the changes and ideas they’ve come up with to deal with the pandemic.

“One of the machines that’s called an extractor, we had to be creative to bring it into the lab because we didn’t have a lot of capital dollars to do it, so we basically bought it off the internet second hand,” he said.

“We’re under tremendous pressure to deliver, it’s been a challenging time. But we’re pleased.”

It has also come at personal cost.

One technologist was basically living in the lab and sleeping only five hours a night.

Romney went weeks without a day off and didn’t see anyone in person beyond his immediate family and colleagues.

When 19 positive tests came back in a single day, another doctor “basically ran from her home” to the hospital to start communicating the results to doctors, public health officials and others who required the information, Romney said.

“The front-line workers are amazing, and we are here to support them but I think it’s good for people to know there are also a lot of people behind the scenes working on this too,” he said.

“It’s not just machines that are being plugged into walls, it’s very human what we do here.”

Romney said the lab staff are mindful that time is critical in fighting the virus.

“It’s a sacrifice but we understand the importance of what we’re doing and there’s kind of a window of opportunity to try and contain the virus. Part of that is testing.”

The transition team

More severe suspected COVID-19 cases are sent to the intensive care unit for isolation. Back in the emergency department, Dr. O’Donnell called Dr. Mathieu Surprenant for an assessment while they awaited test results.

The 29-year-old clinical associate put plans to move back to Montreal on hold when the pandemic struck. Moving in with other doctors seemed too risky, so Surprenant remained in his nearly empty apartment in B.C. on an extended lease.

“I’m sleeping on my inflatable mattress and I’m trying not see anybody,” he said, laughing.

“It’s been very lonely because when I’m not working, I’m not doing anything.”

When he got the call from emergency, Surprenant headed downstairs with resident Dr. Charles Yang.

This wasn’t the hospital’s first suspected COVID-19 case and Yang found himself wondering if it would follow the same trajectory as others.

“In my mind I was wondering, OK what are the precautions I need to take in order to protect myself and other patients while maintaining the level of care I would typically provide for a patient,” Yang said.

He thought of his fiancee at home and whether he would be putting her at risk.

The team examined the patient to develop his care plan. They looked at his oxygen levels and also at the patient himself. Did he look comfortable? Was he struggling?

“What we’re sort of afraid of is that they reach a certain point where they’re able to compensate with their own physiology and eventually just tucker out and decline at a rapid pace,” Yang said.

A crash intubation would be risky for staff because of the time it takes to put on protective equipment, and a chaotic rush into an isolation room could spread the infection. A care plan puts everything in place for a controlled intubation, if a patient appears likely to decline.

The team talked it over and the patient was transferred to the ICU for monitoring overnight.

But it wasn’t long before his oxygen levels began to concern Surprenant.

Best practices change rapidly as new information becomes available about the new coronavirus, the doctor said.

Initially, for example, the idea was to intubate as soon as possible because if a patient gets too ill, his chance of dying on a ventilator increases. But intubation is also more invasive than other procedures and risky for health workers because it pushes droplets of the virus into the air.

Since the pandemic began, recommendations have relaxed to allow for other treatments first but it’s a constantly moving target, Surprenant said.

He believed the patient had reached the stage where intubation was his best chance at survival.

Making that call meant calling in a group dubbed the COVID airway team. Early in the pandemic, the experts in both airway management and donning and doffing specialized protective gear waited on call in a hotel across the street.

“Just dressing takes between five and 10 minutes,” Surprenant said. “They look like astronauts with all the layers.”

The COVID airway team

Anesthesiologist Dr. Shannon Lockhart was part of the planning group that conceived of the COVID airway team.

The cancellation of elective surgeries meant the traditional workload for Lockhart and her colleagues would be lighter. Their idea was to form teams with respiratory therapists to perform intubations so that emergency and ICU doctors wouldn’t expose themselves to the high-risk procedure.

Anesthesiologists self-selected into one of three groups: The first wave was ready to start serving on the COVID airway team immediately. The second would step in if the first wave got sick. And the third would not participate because they or their loved ones were at risk of serious illness if exposed to the virus.

For Lockhart, the decision to be part of the first group, known as the “green team,” was easy. The hard part was creating a plan that would call on others to face the same risk.

“I’m 35 years old, I’m young and healthy. I have a family who is young and healthy, so the personal risk was pretty low for me,” she said.

“More challenging for me was identifying this was a useful model for our group, who are my colleagues and friends, and thereby potentially offering the services of people and putting them at higher risk.”

The uptake was good, however. She was among 16 who volunteered for the green team, making it viable.

When Lockhart was called to intubate the patient, she was ready.

“He fit the story of what you hear about COVID patients who look really well from the bedside, but their numbers don’t look that great,” she said.

Putting a breathing tube down a patient’s throat under normal circumstances takes between five and six minutes, she said.

That time frame has ballooned to between 60 and 90 minutes dealing with the extra protective gear, preparing every possible material you could need in isolation, and the cleaning or disposal of everything in the room.

Dressing feels like a race when someone is struggling to breathe. Once inside, the urgency to clear the airway is intensified by the heat the suit produces.

“The longer we’re in the room, the hotter we get and the foggier our eye protection becomes,” Lockhart said.

Lockhart and a respiratory therapist gave the patient a sedative and paralytic, and inserted the breathing tube while another anesthesiologist waited outside as backup.

Working with different colleagues in an unfamiliar setting wearing cumbersome new equipment is stressful, Lockhart said. But she’s been heartened to watch hospital staff quickly respond and break down silos in which they typically operate.

After intubating the patient, the riskiest part of Lockhart’s new job is doffing her gear.

As the patient relies on strangers for care, Lockhart too relies on someone she barely knows for her own protection. She and the respiratory therapist watch one another carefully as they remove the equipment piece by piece, monitoring for any slip that would allow contamination.

“It’s kind of an interesting position to be in when you’re trusting this person with this very important task but you may never have met them before.”

Inside the intensive care unit

When Dr. Gavin Tansley met the patient, he was already sedated and breathing through a ventilator.

Tansley had given the OK for intubation when Surprenant woke him up with a phone call. He was already familiar with the patient’s case.

Where possible, ICU staff keep an eye on patients they might inherit from other departments, said Tansley, a general surgeon training in critical care. They ask themselves, if things get worse, what would we do?

In the ICU, the acute focus on ventilation shifts to the more holistic care of all the patient’s major organ systems.

“Critical illness is a bit of a funny thing where you really do recognize how intertwined all of these organ systems are,” Tansley said.

“With COVID in particular we see very familiar patterns where often times the kidneys won’t be working 100 per cent, sometimes the heart won’t be working 100 per cent. So, we need to support those organs with other medications or sometimes we need to add dialysis or additional interventions to optimize things as best we can while the body tries to deal with that virus.”

When Tansley decided to become a doctor, he wanted to help people heal. He didn’t realize then that in the ICU, he wouldn’t get to know his patients very well.

“Very often by the time I meet patients, they’re already sedated or on a ventilator or so sick that they can’t talk to you. So, your relationship becomes with the family, and you develop amazing relationships,” he said.

Reflecting on the case, Tansley said it reinforced some recent thoughts he’s had about critical illness that don’t get discussed. So much focus is on the patients, but their families are often experiencing trauma.

“Conversations we’ve had with this particular family reinforced that he was very, very cared for within this family and they were very much struggling with the fact that he was unwell.”

Being unable to visit their loved ones during the pandemic has added an extra layer of grief, he said.

It has been hard for staff to keep families from their loved ones, but they are finding ways to help them connect. Tansley sets aside time to phone them with updates. Nurses hold iPads up to patients so their families can at least see them on video.

Whatever they try, it’s not the same as being able to hold a loved one or even sit with them. The grief can add an extra layer of emotional stress for health workers as well.

“It’s just one of the many ways the coronavirus has changed the way we have to practise medicine.”

A look at the recovery

By the time the patient reached the ICU, about 25 health workers had already played a role in his case. Some interacted with him directly, while others played important but indirect roles in his care, ranging from hospital housekeepers to X-ray technologists.

About 90 intensive care staff saw him, and from there, he would be turned over to a general medicine team.

Recovery is a long road involving a wide network of specialists from dieticians to speech pathologists and social workers. Behind the scenes, hospital administrators, education and outreach teams also do their part.

Kevin Novakowski is a respiratory therapist and in his 28 years of work, he’s never felt an illness create such a constant psychological burden.

“It’s changed me in a way,” he said. “It’s kind of always on my mind.”

In recovery, a patient begins physiotherapy to build his strength. Novakowski is there monitoring how it affects his breathing.

It can take weeks to months, and some never fully recover. Between 30 and 60 per cent of survivors of critical illness have ongoing medical or mental health issues, said Dr. Del Dorscheid, who oversees the ICU as an attending physician. That can mean residual lung disease for COVID-19 survivors, whom he said may receive intensive care for a week or more than a month.

But the first major step toward independence is weaning a patient off the ventilator.

As Novakowski monitored the patient, he began reducing the ventilator’s power and gave him short trials without it.

“You’re looking at their breathing and watching them and focusing on how their muscles look. Are they struggling for air, are they taking deep breaths, are they breathing fast, are they breathing shallow?” he said.

Weaning is a gradual process, like an ebbing tide. Off the ventilator, a patient’s breath rattles.

“They cough and they sputter,” he said.

The rattle may disappear then return when they stand for the first time, or when they start walking.

It’s a stressful process for patients. If they don’t keep coughing to clear their airway, infections can return.

During those first trials, Novakowski waits and listens.

“You listen to them breathing,” he said. “And then all of a sudden, it’s just kind of really quiet and their breathing just sounds like our breathing, normal.

“And you think, OK. That’s good.”

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

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Pandemic has pumped up popularity for PM and most premiers – Assiniboia Times

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When a government is forced to face an unexpected crisis, its original plans usually become the first victim. There were few mentions of U.S. President George W. Bush’s push for “compassionate conservatism” after Americans realized the gravity of the 9/11 attacks. The staunchly anti-deficit Stephen Harper was compelled to send Canada’s federal budget into the red as prime minister, but only after the size of the 2008 global financial crisis became evident to all.

The way in which elected politicians have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to review which leaders are living in the present, and which ones operate with a playbook that has not been updated. Brazil, Mexico and the United States are examples of national administrations whose response to the crisis can be described as flat-footed, ideologically motivated and excruciatingly unscientific.

article continues below

When 2019 was about to draw to a close, most political discussions in Canada concentrated on a perceived lack of unity in the country.

Last December, 40% of Albertans and Quebecers told Research Co. that their provinces would be better off as independent countries – a significantly higher proportion from the Canada-wide average of 25%.

In that same survey, we outlined the problems of two premiers. At the time, 60% of Ontarians wished for someone other than Doug Ford to lead the provincial government and 57% of Albertans felt the same way about Jason Kenney. In addition, 50% of Canadians believed their province would be better off with a different prime minister in Ottawa, and only 38% disagreed with this statement about the capabilities of Justin Trudeau.

Six months and one pandemic later, the numbers are different for the prime minister and some premiers, but the zeal for a landlocked, sovereign Alberta has dwindled considerably.

Across the country, 38% of Canadians think their province would be better off with a different prime minister in Ottawa, 12 points lower than last year. There is still a gender gap on this issue, with more men wishing for a different head of government than women (42% to 34%).

In three of the four most populous provinces, the numbers for Trudeau improved markedly since December 2019. While last year 53% of British Columbians preferred someone else in Ottawa, the proportion has fallen to 37%. Animosity toward the prime minister also fell in Ontario (to 35% from 51%) and Alberta (to 54% from 65%). Quebec’s numbers are essentially the same (38% in December 2019, 37% now).

Ottawa’s reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic is changing the perception of residents on the federal government. We could assume that all premiers would be the beneficiaries of a similar bump in public affection, but not every area of the country is feeling the same way. The biggest change is observed in Ontario, where the proportion of residents who want someone other than Ford in charge fell by 22 points to 38%. Quebec Premier François Legault and British Columbia Premier John Horgan also posted better numbers, with their unfavourability rating on this question going to 29% from 44% and to 36% from 42%, respectively.

Alberta was immune to the COVID-19 bounce. In December 2019, 57% of Albertans yearned for a different premier than Kenney. This time around, 56% of the province’s residents feel the same way.

Kenney has been unique among Canadians premiers in his ubiquity during pandemic press conferences, his criticism of federal health authorities and his inability to temporarily shelve campaign platitudes. Premiers of all political stripes – a New Democrat in B.C., a Conservative in Ontario and a populist in Quebec – have seen their numbers improve after establishing a positive emotional connection with residents. Kenney has been unable to match them.

As many Albertans question the path of their provincial government, the concept of independence is losing its lustre. In this latest survey, 28% of Albertans believe that their province would be better off as its own country. This represents a 12-point drop from the numbers registered in December 2019, just weeks removed from an election where the federal Conservatives got more votes but won fewer seats than the Liberal Party of Canada. Separatist feelings also fell slightly in Quebec, dropping to 36%  from 40% last year this time around.

Albertans are starting to look at governments in a different light. The past six months have brought recovery for the prime minister and stagnation for the premier. Hatred toward Ottawa has indubitably subsided. We will have to wait longer to see if the ludicrous idea of Alberta’s secession becomes a welcome side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. •

Mario Canseco is the president of Research Co.

Results are based on an online study conducted on May 26 and May 27 among 1,000 adults in Canada. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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One new COVID-19 case announced Monday – HalifaxToday.ca

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NEWS RELEASE
COVID-19/HEALTH/WELLNESS
*************************

As of today, June 1, Nova Scotia has 1,057 confirmed cases of COVID-19. One new case was identified Sunday, May 31.

The QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab completed 626 Nova Scotia tests on May 31 and is operating 24-hours.

There is one licensed long-term care home in Nova Scotia with active cases of COVID-19. Northwood in Halifax currently has 10 residents and four staff active cases.

The list of symptoms being screened for has recently expanded. If you have any one of the following symptoms, visit https://811.novascotia.ca to determine if you should call 811 for further assessment:
— fever (i.e. chills, sweats)
— cough or worsening of a previous cough
— sore throat
— headache
— shortness of breath
— muscle aches
— sneezing
— nasal congestion/runny nose
— hoarse voice
— diarrhea
— unusual fatigue
— loss of sense of smell or taste
— red, purple or blueish lesions on the feet, toes or fingers without clear cause

To date, Nova Scotia has 42,426 negative test results, 1,057 positive COVID-19 test results and 60 deaths. Confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90. Six individuals are currently in hospital, two of those in ICU. Nine-hundred and eighty-four individuals have now recovered and their cases of COVID-19 are considered resolved. Cases have been identified in all parts of the province. A map and graphic presentation of the case data is available at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus/data .

Public health is working to identify and test people who may have come in close contact with the confirmed cases. Those individuals who have been confirmed are being directed to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.

Anyone who has travelled outside Nova Scotia must self-isolate for 14 days. As always, any Nova Scotian who develops symptoms of acute respiratory illness should limit their contact with others until they feel better.

It remains important for Nova Scotians to strictly adhere to the public health order and directives – practise good hand washing and other hygiene steps, maintain a physical distance of two metres or six feet from those not in your household or family household bubble and limit planned gatherings of people outside your household or family household bubble to no more than 10.

Nova Scotians can find accurate, up-to-date information, handwashing posters and fact sheets at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus .

Businesses and other organizations can find information to help them safely reopen at https://novascotia.ca/reopening-nova-scotia/ .

Quick Facts:
— testing numbers are updated daily at https://novascotia.ca/coronavirus
— a state of emergency was declared under the Emergency Management Act on March 22 and extended to June 14

Additional Resources:
Government of Canada: https://canada.ca/coronavirus

Government of Canada toll-free information line 1-833-784-4397

The Mental Health Provincial Crisis Line is available 24/7 to anyone experiencing a mental health or addictions crisis, or someone concerned about them, by calling 1-888-429-8167 (toll-free)

Kids Help Phone is available 24/7, by calling 1-800-668-6868 (toll-free)

For help or information about domestic violence 24/7, call 1-855-225-0220 (toll-free)
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NB health authority CEO says COVID-19 outbreak is 'worst possible scenario' – OHS Canada

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By Holly McKenzie-Sutter in St. John’s, N.L. with files from Jillian Kestler-D’Amours in Montreal

FREDERICTON — The chief executive of a New Brunswick health network says the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak in the north of the province is a worst-case scenario in a region with underlying health issues and an older population.

Testing for the novel coronavirus has been ramped up in the Campbellton area, with two arenas becoming makeshift testing centres after officials confirmed a health-care professional travelled to Quebec and returned to work without self-isolating.

The worker has tested positive for COVID-19, and he has been linked to a growing cluster of cases.

Eight cases have been linked to the cluster that as of Friday has led to the adjournment of the provincial legislature, the rollback of reopening measures and prompted the opening of a testing centre across the border in Quebec.

Gilles Lanteigne, president and CEO of the Vitalite Health Network, said the incident that sparked the “massive” testing operation speaks to the importance of abiding by public health measures that have been introduced to slow the spread of the virus.

“We were expecting we would have a fallback at some time or another. Did we expect that? This is probably the worst scenario we could have had,” Lanteigne said by phone on Friday.

Caution urged

Until the latest outbreak, New Brunswick had been loosening restrictions, with nearly all of its positive COVID-19 cases considered resolved.

Health authorities announced two additional cases Friday, bringing the total in the region known as Zone 5 to eight, with two patients in intensive care.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Jennifer Russell said one of the newly diagnosed individuals is a health-care worker in their 30s who works in a nursing home, where patients and staff were being tested Friday. The other new case is a person in their 60s.

She warned all New Brunswickers to be cautious, saying contract tracing has found that people living outside the northern region are within the transmission circle. She said the quickly emerging cluster, which is expected to grow, shows that people will be living with the pandemic for a long time.

Lanteigne said wide testing is essential in the region because Campbellton is known to have high rates of chronic health conditions and smoking, putting the population at greater risk of complications from COVID-19.

“It’s a very vulnerable population,” he said. “We need to know where this virus is at in the community. We’re very, very concerned.”

Lanteigne confirmed the health-care professional thought to be patient zero in the outbreak has been suspended from work indefinitely after coming into contact with more than 100 people.

He declined to confirm the man’s professional title, citing privacy concerns in the small community, but said he worked directly with patients at the Campbellton Regional Hospital.

More than 200 people were tested Thursday evening, and Lanteigne said the health authority is on track to exceed its target of 500 tests over the weekend.

Elective surgeries have been suspended, and ambulances are being diverted to another hospital. Zone 5 has been moved back to the “orange” phase of the province’s reopening plan, with previous restrictions reinstated.

“We’re treating this zone as a hot zone,” Lanteigne said.

Health worker criticized

Campbellton is on the Quebec border, and some residents have complained about restrictions that have limited travel between the two provinces.

Across the river from Campbellton, the health authority in Quebec’s Gaspe region is also setting up a COVID-19 testing unit in Pointe-a-la-Croix.

CISSS Gaspesie spokesperson Clemence Beaulieu-Gendron said the health authority believes some residents of Pointe-a-la-Croix were in contact with the New Brunswick health professional who tested positive for COVID-19, but it is unclear how many.

She said there are currently no active COVID-19 cases in Pointe-a-la-Croix.

Lanteigne remarked that the incident should be a wake-up call for community members who, despite “warnings and warnings,” were reluctant to wear masks and were demanding that travel restrictions be loosened.

“Now, here we are. One incident. This is what we’ve been saying all along,” Lanteigne said.

Premier Blaine Higgs has criticized the worker at the centre of the cluster as “irresponsible.” He said this week that information had been passed to the RCMP and suggested the individual could be charged with violating public health orders.

Cpl. Jullie Rogers-Marsh, spokeswoman for the New Brunswick RCMP, confirmed Friday that the force “is aware of incident and is looking into the matter.” She would not give details about what potential violations were being considered.

At Friday’s COVID-19 briefing, Higgs softened his tone slightly, saying any professional or legal consequences will be dealt with by the person’s employer and law enforcement.

“I know people are upset, but we don’t want anyone taking matters into their own hands,” he said, adding that people with symptoms should not be afraid to come forward and seek testing.

Russell also avoided sharing specifics about the health-care worker’s job title and declined to say whether the nursing home employee had been working in other facilities.

Higgs said the travel incident is being investigated to determine what was said at the border and whether the rules were followed.

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