An outbreak of COVID-19 at Royal Inland Hospital’s patient-care tower construction site stands at 13 cases, but ongoing transmission appears to be low.
Interior Health reported three more cases linked to the construction site outbreak on Monday, Nov. 23, the first addition to the case count since Nov. 12, when the number of people infected stood at 10.
According to Interior Health, however, the additional cases are not new, but rather older ones since confirmed as part of ongoing contact tracing.
Kamloops-based medical health officer Dr. Carol Fenton told KTW a lack of new cases reported in workers at the construction site indicates the risk of transmission there is low.
The outbreak, however, has not yet been declared over as 28 days — two 14-day incubation periods — need to pass without new cases to ensure ongoing transmission has ended, according to the health authority.
The outbreak started as a cluster in a group of workers from the Lower Mainland who were believed to have kept to themselves on site. Those cases came to Interior Health’s attention during the last week of October, but an outbreak wasn’t declared until Nov. 6 with seven cases being reported.
After the initial case was found, additional cases were discovered in co-workers who were already self-isolating, but had all been exposed to each other outside the construction site.
On Nov. 2, general contractor EllisDon closed the work site to conduct a “deep clean” of both indoor and outdoor spaces and Interior Health declared an outbreak later four days later.
Fenton said the outbreak was declared on Nov. 6 because more cases were found in other construction workers who reside in the health region, which suggested transmission was occurring.
An inspector attended the site to assess the risk of transmission and found the safety plans of the multiple subcontractors on site to be adequate, Fenton said, adding some recommendations were made, the most notable being mandated mask use.
Interior Health also asked workers not to venture into the hospital, though it believes the risk of transmission to patients and staff there is low given the fact the work site is separate from the main facility and the length of time the virus needs in order to transmit to another person.
EllisDon marketing director Dustin Luchka said via email the company previously mandated masks in the event contractors were working within six feet of one another, but changed that to having all workers wear them in all situations in late October, just prior to public health’s recommendation.
Asked if the additional cases were linked to the initial cluster of workers, Fenton told KTW the 14-day incubation period and fact there were multiple worker groups makes it difficult to determine the origin of the infections.
Asked what the housing situation is for workers at the site, and how is it arranged, Luchka told KTW where workers live when they are working on a project is an individual choice.
“Like all of the residents of B.C., we expect they are following all of the protocols laid out by the provincial health officer,” he said.
Luchka said the work site was reopened the day after being closed for the deep clean because Interior Health had assured the site was safe. He noted the site cleaning was done voluntarily, out of an abundance of caution.
Luchka said the advice from the Ministry of Health has been followed since the pandemic began, noting workers are screened each day.
There are also three hand-sanitizing stations per floor, occupancy signage in lunchrooms and construction offices, mandatory physical-distancing requirements and a cleaning crew dedicated to continuously cleaning high-use areas, Luchka said.
EllisDon also communicates regularly with its subcontractors and Interior Health regarding maintaining COVID-19 measures, he said.
The patient-care tower work site has an average daily roster of 320 workers in a 133,000-square-metre footprint, excluding outside spaces. Roughly 280 people are working indoors and 40 in outdoor spaces.
Meanwhile, an outbreak declared at The Hamlets assisted living facility in Westsyde remains active with one staff member infected.