Health authorities in NSW are desperately trying to find out how coronavirus was able to spread through hospital workers in two Sydney emergency departments while they were wearing masks and PPE.
Three of Monday’s four new cases were emergency department workers at Concord Repatriation General Hospital’s Emergency Department and Liverpool Hospital’s Emergency Department.
The employee at Concord worked from 7pm on September 1 to 7am September 2 while potentially infectious, and the two at Liverpool Hospital worked on September 2, 3 and 4.
All workers reported having no symptoms while at work and wore personal protective equipment (PPE) while caring for patients.
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said health authorities were “very keen” to find out how the virus had spread in the emergency department, given that staff had been wearing masks at all times.
Dr Chant said there would be an investigation into how likely it was an infected person had touched something like a computer screen, a pen or a piece of paper, and an uninfected person had touched the same thing before then perhaps touching their face.
“It’s actually very hard to never touch your face, and sometimes when you’ve got a mask on you also touch it to readjust it because it’s uncomfortable,” she said.
“For some of these (recent) cases, there has been no direct contact without a mask.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the transmission was an ominous reminder NSW was not yet out of the woods when it came to controlling the spread of coronavirus.
“While the number of cases is low and declining in NSW, I think what cases like this do is remind us just how contagious this virus is,” she said.
“We always need to be on our guard, this disease is like none other that we have experienced.”
Dr Chant said it was important the public understood it was still safe to visit the emergency department regardless of today’s new cases, but to know there were multiple options through telehealth or their GP if they did not feel comfortable.
A visitor to a patient at the Concord ED on September 1 also tested positive after 8pm on Sunday night, and will be listed in Tuesday’s virus numbers.
Patients considered close contacts and all staff working at Concord and Liverpool EDs at the same times as the positive cases are being isolated and tested. Investigations into the source of these infections are ongoing.
The healthcare workers diagnosed over the weekend were identified as part of an investigation into a case reported on September 5 who had worked at the emergency departments at Concord Repatriation General Hospital and Liverpool Hospital.
That person worked two shifts while potentially infectious; at Concord ED on September 1 from 2pm to midnight, and at Liverpool ED on September 3 from 8am to 6pm.
The source of their infection remains unknown.
The health care worker had reported wearing full PPE for all patient interactions and a mask at all other times.
Two Sydney schools were closed for cleaning on Monday after students at both tested positive for coronavirus.
At Kincoppal Rose Bay high school, two Year Seven students tested positive, and another student at Lidcombe Public School also tested positive to the virus.
There are currently seven coronavirus patients in intensive care across NSW, four of whom are being ventilated.