Assessment centre staff COVID-19 free despite proximity to virus

EDMONTON — More than 2 million COVID-19 tests have been performed at assessment centres across the province since the start of the pandemic, but Alberta Health Services said not one of it’s approximately 800 staff have gotten coronavirus while working at an assessment centre.

“With the proximity we are to positive patients, being coughed on and sneezed on, I definitely thought we would have a couple of positives linked to here,” said Devyn Barber, a primary care paramedic.

She started working at an Edmonton assemesment centre for four months ago.

“At the beginning there was a little bit of anxiety,” she said.

She still is COVID-19 free.

“I’ve had a couple people close to me who have become positive but no I have not,” said Barber.

“It doesn’t surprise me,” said Mike Ernscliff, a COVID-19 services manager at the site.

“Our experience here has shown that if you’re careful with all of those measures, that you will not contract the COVID virus, that there’s a very minimal chance that you will,” he said.

Staff are required to wear a mask and face shield at all times. Anyone who has to be near patients must also wear gloves and a gown.

“And what people don’t know is how often we’re changing those so between every patient we’re sanitizing roughly six times. We doff between every patient, we sanitize our entire station and then we go and put on entirely clean new gear before going to see the next person,” said Barber.

She said there are shifts where she changes her gloves 60 times and sanitizes her hands more than 100 times.

Each of the testing cubicles are also sanitized multiple times.

“Between patients we do a single clean. At the end of the day we do a double clean and then they come in and sanitize the stations as well after we leave,” Barber said.

Although Barber said wearing PPE can be like a full-time job in itself, she knows just how important it is.

“All of the protocols put in place makes it a lot easier to feel safe coming to work,” she said.

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