Cluster of Manitoba COVID-19 cases linked to trucking company in Brandon, premier says

By | May 7, 2020

The Brandon office of a trucking company was the business affected by a cluster of COVID-19 cases that was identified earlier this week, the province’s premier says.

Seven positive cases have now been connected to the Paul’s Hauling office on Richmond Avenue E. in Brandon.

Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said Tuesday that five recently announced cases were discovered to be part of a “small cluster” at a workplace in the Prairie Mountain Health region in southwestern Manitoba.

On Wednesday, he said two more people at the same workplace tested positive, but would not identify the workplace.

Premier Brian Pallister confirmed the Brandon company’s offices as the site of the cluster at a news conference on Thursday morning.

“The point I would hope to emphasize through this is the need for all of us to continue to be vigilant,” he said, stressing the importance of physical distancing and other health measures right now as Manitoba reopens parts of its economy. 

“And of course, this is important not just in the trucking industry but throughout our economy.”

WATCH | Premier on COVID-19 cluster at trucking company:

Seven positive cases have now been identified in connection with Paul’s Hauling office on Richmond Avenue East in Brandon. On Thursday, Premier Brian Pallister confirmed the company offices as the site of the cluster. 1:14

The premier didn’t say whether those infected include office staff or truckers, the latter among a group of essential workers still permitted to cross the Canada-U.S. border for work.

Pallister was asked whether he anticipates any new safety measures will be implemented for truckers, given that the Brandon cluster happened at a trucking company office.

He suggested the cluster is significant, but confined to one workplace.

“This should serve as a reminder of how sneaky this virus is, how dangerous it is, and how critically important it is to follow our practices on social distancing,” he said. “Stay home when you’re sick.”

Paul’s Hauling representatives refused CBC News requests on Monday and Tuesday for details confirming it as the site of the cluster.

At news conferences earlier in the week, Roussin would not give further details or name the company, citing privacy. He said only that the workplace was not a health-care facility or a food supply company, and didn’t have significant interaction with the public.

Outbreak could have been worse

The outbreak could have been worse were it not for precautions the business took in advance of the spread based on advice from health officials, Roussin said Thursday about the cluster, although he didn’t mention the business by name.

“This business took it upon themselves to cohort their employees, to group employees in smaller groups while they worked,” he said. “This limits the amount of contact.”

All of the connected cases stem from one of those smaller groups, he said.

“It’s really a note to the actions taken by this business, the action that can be taken by any business to reduce the impacts of this virus,” Roussin said.

Roussin previously said he is unsure how the person with the first case at the trucking company contracted the virus, but the others all stem from the initial case. The affected staff and their close contacts are self-isolating and public health officials are working with those patients on contact tracing.

Most of the contact-tracing investigation into the cases is already complete, he said on Wednesday. However, he did not rule out the chance there could be more linked cases identified, as contact tracing for the two new patients continues.

“It’s certainly possible,” he said earlier in the week. “We’re still in the incubation period for many of the contacts.”

Paul’s Hauling is headquartered in Winnipeg, on Oak Point Highway, and started in Virden more than 60 years ago. It has branches in Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan and terminals in a number of locations in Canada.

The company says on its website that it is one of the leading providers of bulk transport service in Western Canada.

The company was established in Winnipeg in 1957 by the late Paul Albrechtsen, who became a philanthropist known for donating millions of dollars to health-care research and facilities.

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