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COVID-19 outbreak declared at Royal Inland Hospital construction site

The health authority has so far confirmed seven cases of COVID-19 linked to the outbreak and is investigating any connection between cases in other jurisdictions. Contact tracing on confirmed cases is ongoing. All cases and direct contacts are self-isolating. No work stoppage has been ordered.
RIH patient care tower
The $417-million under-construction patient-care tower at Royal Inland Hospital.

Interior Health has declared an outbreak of COVID-19 at the patient-care tower construction site at Royal Inland Hospital, upgrading its status from earlier in the week.

“There is no evidence of any hospital staff or patient exposures related to this outbreak at this time,” Interior Health said in a statement. “This outbreak is limited to the PCT construction site — hospital operations are not impacted. It is important that anyone requiring medical care feels confident in coming to RIH.”

The health authority has so far confirmed seven cases of COVID-19 linked to the outbreak and is investigating any connection between cases in other jurisdictions. Contact tracing on confirmed cases is ongoing. All cases and direct contacts are self-isolating.

The health authority is working with project general contractor EllisDon to try to minimize the risk of additional exposures.

“Based on an IH environmental health inspection of the site, IH’s medical health officer has determined that appropriate safety protocols are in place and the risk of any further exposures at the worksite is low,” the statement reads.

No work stoppage has been ordered.

Interior Health has said it will issue an update on the outbreak at the end of the day on Nov. 9.

The worksite includes both indoor and outdoor spaces, with an average daily manpower of 320 workers in a 133,000-square-metre footprint, excluding outside spaces. Roughly 280 people are working indoors and 40 on the outdoor spaces.

On Nov. 2, project manager EllisDon closed the construction site to conduct what it called “a deep clean” of all outdoor and indoor spaces following positive cases of COVID-19 being confirmed last week in a work crew. 

IH told one other media outlet earlier this week that crew resides outside IH. They are apparently in isolation in Fraser Health.

The initial case was reported some time last week and that person’s direct contacts all went into isolation, according to Interior Health. Further testing of those people while in isolation determined them positive for COVID-19.

EllisDon, however, did not shut down the work site until Nov. 2, reopening it on Nov. 3 following the clean.

The health authority initially said it was not classifying the exposures as an outbreak, saying it was limited to a crew of workers that did not mingle with others on site.

It has not specified if the seven cases were all from that one work crew, nor has it explained why the exposure event has been declared an outbreak.

IH said a medical health oficer issued the outbreak "after new information came in" but has not disclosed the nature of that infomration to this newspaper.

Accoridng to IH, the seven cases "are among the cases reported earlier and today" but it has not specified if cases have been found in other work crews on site. IH has said that all cases are in isolation and contact tracing is being conducted.

KTW is still awaiting a return call from Kamloops medical health officer Dr. Carol Fenton, having asked to speak with her on Nov. 3.

With more than 300 workers on the site and tradespeople sharing hallways, elevators and lunchrooms, a caller to KTW, identifying himsels as a worker on site, asked why all 300-plus workers have not been tested for COVID-19.

Interior Health said testing is recommended for symptomatic people as evidence shows testing those who are asymptomatic generally results in a negative test. The health authority hasn’t disclosed how many workers from the construction site have been tested for COVID-19.

Interior Health said that out of an abundance of caution, its medical health officers have asked all workers not to venture into the adjacent hospital unless they require medical attention while the situation is being monitored.