Why haven’t all workers at the patient-care-tower construction site been tested for COVID-19 after a group at the location tested positive, leading to a one-day shutdown of the site?
That question was posed to KTW by a man who called the newsroom, claiming to work on the site, but reluctant to give his name for fear that speaking out could impact his job.
With more than 300 workers on the site and tradespeople sharing hallways, elevators and lunchrooms, the question he asked was then posed to Interior Health by Kamloops This Week.
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 the initial case was identified last week and all contacts of that person immediately began to self-isolate. Follow-up testing later in the week confirmed additional cases in those who were self-isolating, but the site wasn’t closed for cleaning until this past Monday (Nov. 2).
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.
While Interior Health has said a group of workers at the construction site tested positive for COVID-19, it will not reveal specifically how many have tested positive to date — unless an outbreak is declared— citing privacy concerns.
General contractor EllisDon closed the work site on Nov. 2 out of what Interior Health called “an abundance of caution” following the exposure, but work resumed at the site the following day, Nov.4, following "a deep clean,” according to the company’s marketing director, Dustin Luchka.
Luchka said cleaning of the entire worksite was performed by a specialized cleaning company, noting that all levels, lunch rooms and common areas were cleaned.
The worksite includes both indoor and outdoor spaces, Luchka said, with an average daily manpower of 320 workers in a 133,000-square-metre footprint, excluding outside spaces. Luchka said toughly 280 people are working indoors and 40 on the outdoor spaces.
He said it is uncertain from where the initial worker who tested positive contracted COVID-19.
The health authority is not classifying the exposure as an outbreak, saying it was limited to a crew of workers that did not mingle with others on site.
Dr. Carol Fenton, Interior Health’s medical health officer in Kamloops, told another media outlet the group of infected workers are from outside the health region and won’t be reflected in the health authority’s COVID-19 case numbers.
KTW is awaiting a request to speak with Fenton.
According to Interior Health, contact tracing of positive cases provided the information needed to determine whether there was risk to any members of the public. It said workers primarily stay on the construction site and those who tested positive after the initial case were already in isolation.
Interior Health said workers’ movements around the hospital were limited as the construction zone is separate from the hospital facility itself and contact tracing determined those who tested positive had limited interactions with the broader community.
“We are confident the hospital area and staff were not exposed,” a statement from the health authority reads.
According to Interior Health, any quick trips by workers to a coffee shop or cafeteria in the hospital are unlikely to have created any risk to hospital staff, visitors or patients as COVID-19 is more likely to be transmitted in close settings, where people are together for at least 15 minutes and where layers of protection, such as masks and physical distancing, are not in place.