Council kept in dark on virus tracing

A “VERY disappointing” Health Department response over a coronavirus case at the Terry Tyzack Aquatic Centre in March hasn’t convinced Stirling council to take responsibility for notifying patrons if another case is discovered.

Internal emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request show Stirling staff butted up against non-answers from the department’s Communicable Disease Control Unit and waited 10 days for a response about contact tracing after a gym user was diagnosed with Covid-19. 

The council immediately closed the centre after being notified of the positive test and briefed “staff and any concerned members of the public” who were there, according to the emails.

Centre members were sent email messages the following day telling them the centre was closed, but not why. Only those visiting the council website and navigating into a drop-down menu would find out about the coronavirus case.

The council had received advice from the department that the exposure risk was “low” but wanted to know if the CDCU was contacting people, and emails and telephone calls were sent throughout the week.

The CDCU’s one-line response came on April 1 and didn’t even answer the question.

“The public health issues have been managed and as the centre is now closed, there is nothing further that needs to be done,” the email read. “Cheers.”

Protocol

An internal email from Stirling’s planning and development director Stevan Rodic shows he forwarded the response to council colleagues saying “not much in it, very disappointing”. He had urged the CDC to respond after Tyzack Centre users contacted the council for information. 

Not even a prompting from department colleagues to respond “ASAP” helped.

The TTAC reopened this week, but the city isn’t going to take notifications into its own hands; community development director Michael Quirk said that’s up to the department.

“The city has a clear protocol to immediately report any cases to the Department of Health‚Äôs Communicable Disease Control Unit and then follow their direction and advice,” Ms Quirk said.

“Regardless, the city will ensure that all notification responsibilities are clearly understood between the city and the Department of Health in future.

“It is also important to note that the Department did not consider any users of Terry Tyzack Aquatic Centre as a close contact of the person in question; therefore there was no official requirement to notify other users of the facility. A list of all recorded users was provided by the city to the Department of Health with the expectation that these people would be contacted by the department if they deemed appropriate as the responsible agency.”

By DAVID BELL

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