Manitobans weren’t notified about a case of COVID-19 at Daughter on Call as there was little risk to them, said the province’s chief public health officer.
This, despite previous instances where specific locations were named.
"Our typical approach at all times was to notify the public if it had an impact on the general public’s health," Dr. Brent Roussin said during Thursday’s health briefing.
"And so for that case, we were able to contact trace and notify all contacts, (the Daughter on Call case) wasn’t a facility — a licensed facility — that that took place at, where we typically would report outbreaks or cases in a registered facility."
On Wednesday, the Sun reported that a health-care aide at the Brandon-based organization that cares for seniors and runs personal care homes had tested positive on May 10 for COVID-19. Another staff member tested negative for the virus after coming into contact with the person who was ill at a private residence.
Early in the pandemic, on April 2, Roussin announced nine people at the Betel Personal Care Home in Gimli were being tested for COVID-19. That same day, he also said he was aware of a case of the Riverview Health Centre in Winnipeg.
Also, on Tuesday, Roussin announced that an employee of a Walmart in Winnipeg had tested positive for the virus.
But, when it came to the cluster of 10 cases identified at Paul’s Hauling Ltd.’s Brandon-based Oak Point Service maintenance shop and the case at Daughter on Call, the province didn’t announce the cases publicly.
The province also neglected to announce local cases at the Corral Centre Safeway gas bar and at Maple Leaf Foods, with the companies taking it upon themselves to let the public know. Safeway parent company Sobeys announced their case, and Maple Leaf Foods announced that a contract security guard had tested positive.
"Public health will disclose to the public, and we have done so when we feel it’s important for the public to know, if we thought there may have been people who had been contacted that we couldn’t identify," Roussin said.
"There’s things like stigma and fear that really help this virus spread, and so we need to control that."
On Wednesday, Daughter on Call CEO and owner Gail Freeman-Campbell phoned the Sun to say she previously denied a case among her organization’s staff in an effort to protect employee confidentiality.
In three phone calls with The Brandon Sun on Friday of last week and Tuesday, Freeman-Campbell repeatedly denied a Daughter on Call employee had tested positive for COVID-19, despite the Sun having evidence in the form of internal memos sent to staff as well anonymous former and now-former employees speaking out.
"You understand that I’m under orders with public health that I cannot give that information out; it is their mandate, and I have been simply following the orders that Manitoba Health has dictated across the province," she said on Wednesday.
"It says on (Manitoba Health’s website) that when there is a positive case that it is in their care and control, that employers are not to be trying to deal with it internally. We are not to be contacting employees and staff, families, the whole bit. That is the role of public health, and we have gladly let them do their job."
In response to a previous question from the Sun, a spokesman for Shared Health replied in an email: "There is no legislation that forbids a company from publicly confirming they are the source of a COVID-19 case or outbreak."
On Thursday, the Sun asked Roussin during the daily press conference whether the province was preventing businesses from telling the public about COVID-19 cases.
"Public health wouldn’t communicate anything of the sort on what people can do," Rousin said, but added the diagnosis would count as personal health information.
"I’m not aware of why the province would tell somebody that; I think that my advice would probably be not to disclose it unless public health thought it was relevant."
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