Via Rail employee tests positive for COVID-19

A Via Rail train moves through Toronto on Feb. 10, 2020. Brent Rose/Global News

A Via Rail employee who was recently working aboard intercity trains has tested positive for COVID-19, the national Canadian passenger rail service says.

In an email to Global News, a Via Rail spokeswoman said the employee was doing well and in self-isolation at home.

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The company was still in the process of reaching out to passengers who may have come into contact with the employee, according to the spokeswoman.

“Although possible exposure remains minimal, we have made sure that all our employees and crews were notified as soon as we were made aware of the situation, and we will remain in contact with them through the following weeks,” Marie-Anna Murat, Via Rail’s senior director of corporate communications, wrote in an email to Global News.

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“We are in the process of contacting passengers who might have been in direct or indirect contact with our employee.”

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In a statement later Thursday evening, Via Rail president Cynthia Garneau said the employee worked the Quebec City-Windsor corridor.

“The employee worked on March 14 and 15 (on-board trains 61-44-643-68) and did not show any symptoms,” she said.

The employee began showing symptoms on March 18. Two days later, the employee called health authorities. They were tested on March 21, and Via Rail says it found out the employee tested positive on March 23.

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“The employee did not report to work at any time while experiencing symptoms,” Garneau said.

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Via Rail had previously suspended service on all routes outside of Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba due to the risks posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic.

It was not immediately clear how the employee had contracted the virus that causes COVID-19. But the diagnosis indicates that hundreds of people may have been unwittingly exposed to the virus through passengers or crew members who were potentially infected and able to spread the disease within their communities.

One passenger who had taken train 68 on March 15, from Toronto to Montreal, told Global News that Via Rail notified him of the situation on March 26, three days after the company says it first learned about the employee’s test results.

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“We want to thank all of our front-line staff that are working to ensure continuity of service to Canadians in these difficult and unprecedented times,” Murat wrote.

“Complying with guidance from authorities, including from Health Canada and our health-care professionals, Via Rail continues to follow and deploy proper protocols to keep its passengers and employees safe.”

She added that Via Rail appreciates ongoing efforts of passengers and employees who are “rigorously practising social distancing, frequent handwashing, proper hygiene and additional sanitizing” at all touchpoints.

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