Winnipeg 911 call centre worker tests positive for COVID-19

By | April 8, 2020

A civilian member of the Winnipeg Police Service who works in the 911 call centre has tested positive for COVID-19, Winnipeg’s police chief announced Wednesday morning.

The employee was working in the centre, which handles 911 calls for police, firefighters and paramedics, on April 1 and began to feel ill, police Chief Danny Smyth said.

She sought medical treatment on Saturday and was tested for COVID-19, he said.

Smyth found out she had tested positive Tuesday evening. 

Four other employees who worked in close proximity with the woman on April 1 have been sent home and told to self-isolate, he said. Police don’t yet know how the employee may have contracted the virus. 

Extra staff were called in to backfill for the employees who were sent home in order to ensure there were no service disruptions, Smyth said.

The police service also has put in some screening measures for staff coming to work at the call centre, including having their temperatures taken by a paramedic, he said. 

The plan is to expand those screening measures to other departments as well, he said. 

WATCH | Winnipeg Police Service COVID-19 news conference: April 8:

A civilian member of the Winnipeg Police Service who works in the 911 call centre has tested positive for COVID-19, Winnipeg’s police chief announced Wednesday morning. 18:54

Employees of the 911 call centre work in pods and are spaced out through the centre, so they are two metres apart, he said. 

“I’m confident in the measures we have right now,” he said. 

“The centre we have at headquarters, if you have never been to it, it’s a very open, spacious centre that has a 25-foot ceiling, so the ventilation and the spacing that we’ve provided to our employees is very good.” 

Members asked to self-isolate 

Just over 200 members of the Winnipeg Police Service have been asked to self-monitor or go into self-isolation in the last few weeks due to COVID-19, mostly because of travel, Smyth said. Of those members, all but seven are now back at work.

The Winnipeg Police Service employs about 2,000 people, of which about 1,370 are sworn officers, Smyth said. 

The civilian member who tested positive for the virus is the only known positive case within the service thus far, he said. 

Police officers are being “hyper-vigilant” when responding to calls, Smyth said, and have access to personal protective equipment if they need it, such as gloves and N95 masks. 

“The biggest thing we’ve tried to do is provide them with equipment and as much info as we can,” he said. 

If they are required to arrest somebody in an emergency situation, then they have some protocols afterward to try to determine whether the person arrested is at risk of having COVID-19, Smyth said.

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