Home » Martensville Gym Looking For Answers Following COVID Outbreak

Martensville Gym Looking For Answers Following COVID Outbreak

by Jocelyn Ottenbreit

On February 26, Chris Buhr, co-owner of Forged Fitness in Martensville, received a call from the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) that their business had four confirmed positive COVID-19 cases between February 9-20. According to SHA, non-household situations that include more than two positive cases is considered an outbreak. Buhr noted that he also received an email that same day requesting all member check-in information; including dates and times, for SHA to be able to assess who was in close contact with the individuals that tested positive.

According to Buhr, shortly after they were informed of the outbreak, four of the individuals identified themselves to him privately of their positive tests. “The SHA then requested a list of about 180 members contact info and started contacting the members telling all of them that they were close contacts and had to isolate for 14 days. I knew immediately that they weren’t properly investigating and were just forcing everyone to isolate.”

For Buhr, things began to get uncomfortable when members began reaching out to him stating that there were reports of slandering the business, and accusations of not following protocols. According to Buhr, an SHA representative said the gym was an active COVID site and anyone that went in the foreseeable future was risking infection. Buhr questioned the medical officer looking for answers as to why all 180 members needed to be in self-isolation and why they weren’t posting the dates of when the members used the gym while infectious.

Up until November 14 of last year, the SHA was providing regular exposure alerts at businesses and other locations that included dates and times of potential COVID-19 exposure; however, in November, they announced that they would be scaling back on these alerts, unless self-isolation was immediately required, rather than self-monitoring.

According to an SHA news release, “COVID-19 PSA alerts will remain an important tool for primary health care teams. However, these will only be issued at the direction of local medical health officers when they have determined a notification of the broader public is required to inform individuals who may have attended a location or business to immediately self-isolate and seek testing.” The release also noted that, “These alerts will be based on the clinical discretion of the local medical health officer and occur when the following three criteria are met: all contacts cannot be notified within 48 hours, there is a resulting increased risk to the public, and the direction is needed for public members in attendance to immediately self-isolate as a result of this increased risk.”

For Buhr, he felt that the SHA had not given clarity as to dates and times and it wasn’t until he received permission from the positive members to publicly post them, that they were able to post a clearer picture to those who were given instruction to self-isolate, and if they were actually even at the gym at the same time as the infected members. “Once we exposed that a lot of people were not a close contact, they changed the narrative to the gym as an environment is a high-risk facility and criticized things like the ventilation even though no representation of the SHA has ever stepped foot in Forged Fitness.”

Buhr said many questions were asked to the medical officer that was in charge of their case with no answers provided, and was left feeling very confused and frustrated. According to Buhr, the SHA then started releasing people from isolation early and said it was due to ‘miscommunication.’ “One member was told she had a new exposure date that was four days earlier than the one they originally told her but when I checked my records she wasn’t even attending the gym the day they claimed she was exposed?’

Buhr said what he would have really appreciated is some clear communication and an effort to work on helping give information on who really was at risk. “We are patiently waiting for answers from the medical officer in charge of our case and also the Minister of Health has been emailed with all of this information as well. So far we haven’t heard anything back.” He feels that trust was broken and hopes the SHA will learn from this experience in the future. “We are talking about enforcing ‘laws’ and temporarily locking people in their homes with no human compassion or regard for mental health. When you are going to be doing these things I suggest you be 100% sure it is necessary for each and every person.”

A list of active COVID-19 outbreaks can be found at www.saskatchewan.ca/government/health-care-administration-and-provider-resources/treatment-procedures-and-guidelines/emerging-public-health-issues/2019-novel-coronavirus/latest-updates/covid-19-active-outbreaks, a page that is updated daily.

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