Food Basics worker was not told to isolate: Roumeliotis

Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Roumeliotis speaks to reporters during a video news conference on Sunday, April 19, 2020. Roumeliotis says a Food Basics worker was never told to isolate after being tested at the Cornwall Community Hospital. (EOHU/Zoom via Newswatch Group)

CORNWALL – The region’s medical officer of health says a worker at a Cornwall grocery store was never told to isolate after they were given a swab test at the Cornwall Community Hospital.

During a news conference Sunday afternoon, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis described the public’s risk as low because “the role of the individual was behind Plexiglas” at the store. They worked day shifts on Monday through Thursday (April 13-16) and again on Saturday (April 18). The employee became symptomatic on Wednesday.

As for other staff in the store, Roumeliotis says their risk was “medium” and those people are being “identified as we speak.” They are being told to self-monitor as people are not tested unless they show symptoms.

Roumeliotis says the store wasn’t closed because as soon as the test came in Saturday “that individual’s area was closed off” and the entire store went through a “very extensive” sanitation overnight by an outside company. “I reviewed a list with the head office of Food Basics and it’s a very extensive list of all the disinfection that they’ve done and sanitation that they’ve done.”

He says the Food Basics employee has no connection to the Tim Hortons employee who fell ill earlier this week. He says the only commonality between the two cases is they were both “community acquired in Cornwall” – both people didn’t get COVID-19 through travel or close contact with an infected individual.

A family member says the employee was tested with a throat swab at the Cornwall Community Hospital for strep throat on Thursday, given antibiotics, but was never told they were also tested for COVID-19. Throat swabs are also used for COVID-19 testing and have been used in local assessment centers.

Roumeliotis was asked by Cornwall Newswatch whether front line health care workers will be getting stronger directives on diagnosing cases.

“I have spoken to the hospital and I do know that this individual was not given directives to isolate. I spoke to the CEO of the hospital (Jeanette Despatie) this morning and the head of the emergency room looking at the chart,” Roumeliotis said.

“This is the first time that this has happened. We’ve tested thousands of patients and this is first time this has come to us. I can’t speak for the hospital but I can tell you that, yes, we are going to be visiting it (directive),” Roumeliotis said.

The doctor added that essential workers will be tested for any symptoms “and when I say any symptoms, a wide variety of symptoms…anything abnormal in this day of COVID we should be testing.”

Asked whether there are any consequences for the doctor involved in this Cornwall Community Hospital case, Roumeliotis – a pediatrician who has performed clinical work – says it’s “quite complicated” because people can have can have several infections at the same time.

He says he would only take action is there is a “repeat issue” with a medical professional.