Manitobans concerned over delay in COVID-19 exposure notifications

WINNIPEG — As COVID-19 cases climb in the province, some Manitobans are complaining about delays in possible exposure notifications.

“The six or seven delay is not good information. It’s not quick enough or timely enough for people to make informed decisions,” said Jordan Loewen, a parent who recently received a COVID-19 exposure alert.

Loewen’s two young daughters attend Springfield Heights School. On Wednesday, Loewen received a letter from the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority stating a student at Springfield Heights tested positive for COVID-19 and was present in the school, and potentially infectious, on November 12 and November 13.

“It’s a little bit scary because they were symptomatic while at school and there’s nothing I can do about that,” said Loewen. “The time period is so far out that it’s even hard to track. How do you track where those kids have been or what they’ve done over six days?”

Delays in possible COVID-19 exposures aren’t only tied to schools. The most recent possible COVID-19 exposure listed on the province’s website for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority is a transit ride dated Nov. 10, 12 and 13.

A number of factors can create a lag from when an individual becomes infectious to when a public exposure notification is listed, a public health spokesperson told CTV News.

The time it takes for a person to become symptomatic, get a COVID-19 test and conduct a thorough public health investigation can extend over multiple days. Human error can also play a role; a COVID-19 positive person may not be able to remember all of their close contacts.

“Given the current number of cases and the high number of contact some cases have, it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint where various exposures have taken place making it difficult to isolate a place of exposure and announce it,” a provincial spokesperson said.

And, sometimes, a public health exposure notice won’t be released at all.

“If all close contacts can be identified and notified, a public exposure notice is not needed,” the spokesperson said.

On Thursday, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin commented on Manitoba’s high COVID-19 case rate, noting how new restrictions aim to bring that number down.

“We know that the transmission takes place with that prolonged contact,” said Roussin. “And if we have people isolating essentially, if somebody develops it to them they really have the inability to pass it on to someone else. And so what we’ll do is we’ll just see those numbers start dramatically coming down.”

In the meantime, to help, Loewen hopes Manitobans will freely share COVID-positive status before a possible public exposure notice is necessary

“There are literally thousands of people who have gotten sick,” said Loewen. “The stigma is kind of over. So, if you are sick and were asymptomatic, just release that information.”

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