The head of the Saskatchewan Medical Association has tested positive for the novel coronavirus after participating in a curling event in Edmonton last week that was attended by dozens of doctors from across Western Canada.
Dr. Allan Woo says he believes he contracted the coronavirus at a curling bonspiel held March 11 to 14.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has hit home for me and my family. I was tested on Tuesday and the results came back positive on Wednesday night. I am at home and continue to monitor the situation closely,” Dr. Woo said in a statement Thursday.
He said the bonspiel is an annual event that usually attracts 50-60 physicians from Western Canada.
According to the statement, Dr. Woo first noticed symptoms Tuesday morning and has since been isolating himself. He also calls for vigilance among health-care workers about the fast-moving pandemic, which poses risks to all.
“As I write this, I am reminded that physicians are not invincible. The risks of this pandemic are far too real. I hope my personal situation serves as a signal for all health-care workers, and others, to be vigilant about their health.”
Thursday, Saskatchewan announced four new cases of COVID-19, including Dr. Woo. The province now has 20 reported cases.
The Ministry of Health says three of the new infections are related to travel, with the other being a close contact of a previously reported case.
Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s chief medical officer of health, says he's spoken to Dr. Woo and got his permission to confirm the positive test.
“Beyond that, I would not like to discuss any particular details of any case in terms of exposures,'' he told reporters in Regina on Thursday. "Having said that, if we know that there is more than one case related to an event we will be disclosing that.”
Dr. Shahab said they’ve opened an investigation about the bonspiel that involves two provinces at least.
“All of the information is being collected and communicated to all the provinces from where people may have come to that event,” he said, stressing all participants of the event, who have been alerted about the positive tests, will be required to be in self-isolation until further details are known.
Alberta's chief medical officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, said the Edmonton event involved approximately 72 curlers and a subsequent banquet had 45 attendees.
At the time, the province prohibited events of more than 250 people, and events of more than 50 if they involved people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, people with critical jobs, or international attendees. The threshold for large events has since been reduced to 50 people in all cases.
Dr. Hinshaw said the “index patient” who was infected and went to the event had recently travelled to Las Vegas. Any doctor who was at the event should self-isolate, she said.
"Clearly, there was transmission at that event, and so we are taking this very seriously," she said.
Dr. Hinshaw said her office is working to determine which doctors from Alberta were at the event and how potential infections or self-isolation would affect resources in her province.
The Granite Curling Club in Edmonton released a statement late Thursday afternoon, confirming it held the event.
“The Granite Curling Club board of directors and management are concerned to hear the news that a doctor in Saskatchewan has tested positive for COVID-19 and may have contracted it at a bonspiel at the Granite Curling Club,” the statement reads.
It says the bonspiel was operated under the guidance from the Alberta government regarding practices to avoid the spread of the virus and the club said it followed the direction.
It further states they have notified everyone who had been in the club during the three-day event, including their employees, who have since been in self-isolation. The club has been closed since Sunday morning.
Health officials are still dealing with the fallout from a large dental conference in Vancouver that took place earlier this month. A number of COVID-19 infections have been traced to the conference and about 15,000 attendees were asked to self-isolate.
Dr. Mark Joffe of Alberta Health Services said the agency received an anonymous complaint about someone from the Edmonton area who was not self-isolating. He said officials identified who it was and contained that person, who is now in isolation.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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