Thirteen confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been linked to a curling bonspiel attended by 50 to 60 doctors from across western Canada.
The bonspiel took place in Edmonton March 11-14, starting the same day COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Shaqib Shahab said 11 of those cases are “front-line health care staff and physicians” from Regina, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert. The other two are people connected to the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine.
Additionally, three doctors from Manitoba are in self-isolation following their attendance at the event.
Dr. Shahab noted the event took place before there were any restrictions on gatherings with less than 250 people.
He said 22 people from Saskatchewan attended the event, meaning half of those people contracted the virus.
“This is a startling reminder of the risk in gatherings, even as healthcare workers,” Dr. Shahab said during a teleconference Saturday afternoon. “While we take all the precautions at work, we are not immune to this virus in social settings.”
‘The risks of this pandemic are far too real’
On Thursday, the president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association, which represents doctors in Saskatchewan, confirmed he contracted COVID-19 at the curling bonspiel.
Woo, who is an orthopedic surgeon in Saskatoon, says he has been self-isolating since Tuesday morning when he first noticed symptoms. He said his appointments and surgeries are being rescheduled.
“We are communicating with patients I was in contact with. My sincere apologies for any distress this may cause,” he wrote.
He said his situation should be a warning to everyone.
“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. Everyone needs to take precautions and self-monitor for any symptoms.”
Investigation into the bonspiel
Prior to the new cases being announced, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the investigation into the bonspiel event continues and the province is currently gathering more details.
Hinshaw said public health was to reach out to all doctors involved in the event, but didn’t answer directly when asked if any could potentially still be practising or interacting with patients.
In a statement provided to CBC News, AHS said they have directly contacted any individual considered exposed to these cases, and these individuals are now being tested while in self-isolation.
“Again, all individuals exposed to a case are contacted directly by AHS. Only those individuals contacted directly by AHS, are considered exposed to any case. If you are not contacted directly by AHS, you are not considered exposed,” the statement reads. “So as to protect patient privacy, no further patient details will be provided.”