An employee at the Hope and Area Transition Society has tested positive for COVID-19, leading the organization to shut their office on Park Street to the public until Monday.
A notice on the 400 Park Street office door notified the public of the exposure. “The office will be closed this week as we have an employee who has tested positive for COVID,” the note read. “To keep both our staff and clients healthy and safe, we felt it was necessary to close the office until it is deemed safe to reopen.”
Gerry Dyble, executive director of HATS, said the organization was informed of the positive test on Aug. 14, and a decision was made to shut down the office the Monday following. The office will re-open Monday, Aug. 24, which is two weeks from the date of exposure Dyble confirmed.
No other sites run by HATS are affected by the exposure Dyble confirmed, nor are any clients. The organization runs Hope’s emergency shelter and transition house for women fleeing family violence.
Precautionary measures as suggested by Fraser Health were taken, Dyble said. “We’ve actually gone above and beyond. We’ve shut the office down this week and all staff are working from home,” she said, save for one staff member who was away on the date of exposure and is working from the office. A deep clean of the office was also done.
There were no clients in contact with the staff member, Dyble said. Staff had minimal contact and are all considered low risk she added. No other staff members have tested positive for the virus.
Every positive COVID-19 case is investigated by Fraser Health, spokesperson Aletta Vanderheyden stated, and through the contact tracing process the authority follows up with all of their close contacts to both make them aware of the positive case and to monitor for symptoms. This involves daily calls from public health nurses, both to the person who tested positive and their contacts, until the end of the 14-day isolation period.
Through the contact tracing process, Vanderheyden stated, specific locations of confirmed cases are not identified publicly unless public health is unable to reach all those who need to be contacted. “We want people who have symptoms to contact us, and to feel safe contacting us, knowing their privacy will be protected so the steps to protect the health and safety for all can be taken,” she stated. “This is why privacy is important to everyone. It allows public health to do the work they need to do to keep everybody safe.”
Fraser Health are working with HATS, who is a contracted service provider for the health authority, to make sure clients are supported virtually until the office re-opens Vanderheyden stated.
The office had pandemic measures in place for staff prior to the exposure Dyble said. “We do a health check everyday when staff come to work – they do their temperatures, they check for symptoms, they fill out a form, and this is for Worksafe BC,” she said. When they return Monday, wearing masks will become mandatory.
The case is a wake-up call for the community to double down on physical distancing, hand washing and other precautions, Dyble said, especially looking ahead at the flu season.
“Hope isn’t immune to a pandemic,” she said. “You could get it anywhere. People are out and about, you see how busy Hope is with tourists and people being active in our community. It’s a wake-up call for everybody.”
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