An internal email to employees has identified a trucking company with a terminal in Brandon as the source of a cluster of COVID-19 cases, which has now grown to seven.
While Manitoba's chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, continued Wednesday to refuse to name the workplace involved, The Brandon Sun has obtained a company email sent to employees of Paul's Hauling Ltd. and Oak Point Service from Rod Corbett, vice-president of Paul's Hauling, based in Winnipeg.
Oak Point Service is the maintenance arm of the business.
After outlining the company's efforts to follow public health guidelines to protect staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, Corbett wrote in an email dated May 1:
"In an effort to be transparent while respecting the privacy of individuals, I want to provide you with the facts around our current situation in the Brandon shop.
"... We now have three confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 within our OPS Brandon staff. A weekend shift employee finished his shift on Monday April 20th then on Wednesday April 22th he started feeling ill.
"On Friday April 24th, he was not feeling any better and called in sick, missing his next planned shift of April 25, 26, 27. On April 27th, he was confirmed positive for covid and is currently self-isolating. We contacted Health Links and were advised they did not think he was contagious on his last day worked, April 20th, this shift should continue to self-monitor.
"We immediately attempted to have the entire weekend shift tested, but because no one was experiencing any symptoms, they would not test the rest of the people on the weekend shift. The weekend shift returned and completed their shift on April 25, 26 and 27th. One individual said he felt fine but had a runny nose, no other symptoms. He went along with another shop employee on the weekend shift to get tested (these 2 people carpool to work together). They were tested on Tuesday April 28th and on Thursday April 30th they were both confirmed positive covid. The other shop employee had NO symptoms whatsoever.
"Our current plan is to shut down the shop on Saturday, May 2nd and 3rd and have it completely disinfected by an outside company. The weekend shift that has had 3 positive cases will be self-isolating for 14 days. We will work out a new shift schedule for the remaining 2 shifts in Brandon with some potential for support from Winnipeg. The Brandon shop will be diligently following the guidelines that have been previously laid out including self-monitoring for each employee."
"I'm not a doctor. We've satisfied every public health official. They've come out. We've been working with them extensively," Corbett said in telephone interview with the Sun Wednesday afternoon.
"There's been nothing hidden. We've been open to everything way before we began this whole thing," he said. "Our pandemic plan was approved by ... the public health officials. There have been zero recommendations to anything that we're doing now."
He went on to say, "I want my employees to trust that we're doing everything we can to make sure that they're safe."
Roussin reported the two additional cases during Wednesday's livestreamed health briefing.
He said the affected staff in the cluster and their close contacts are self-isolating, and officials are working with them on detailed contact tracing.
"This increase in cases is what we find when detailed contact investigation is done and we find cases related to this cluster," Roussin said.
"Contact investigation had been largely completed," he added. "We have two new cases, and so we're not concerned about a risk to the public. If there was, we would definitely be articulating that as soon as we can."
The family member of an employee, who wished to remain anonymous, said that news of the local outbreak should serve as a wake-up call for the general public. They said they're worried for the health of not only the family member, but also the public at large.
"People are careless because they say it's not here," they said. "I can confirm — it's here."
Paul's Hauling Ltd. is one of the leading providers of bulk transport services in Western Canada, according to a company website.
It was established in 1957 by Paul Albrechtsen in Winnipeg, and now has offices and terminals in a number of locations in Canada.
Manitoba Health officials reported two new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed and probable cases to date to 284. Five people are currently hospitalized, none in intensive care.
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