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No direct link to GTA for Kingston, Ont., nail salon COVID-19 outbreak

Some Kingston servers concerned over spike in covid-19 cases in the region
As the number of COVID-19 cases in the region sees a sharp increase this week, some restaurant servers are now concerned for their health.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated there were 18 active cases of the novel coronavirus in the Kingston region, there are in fact 16, but KFL&A Public Health mistakenly reported two extra cases. The story has been changed to reflect that. 

The medical officer of health for the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington (KFL&A) region says the novel coronavirus outbreak at a nail salon in Kingston, Ont., has no direct link to the Greater Toronto Area.

“There has been no direct link through our investigation to Toronto and no evidence to date that there has been significant use of this clinic by anyone from Toronto,” Moore said Friday afternoon in a press briefing.

Between June 12 and 24, Binh’s Nail Salon in Kingston served over 500 people. On Thursday, the local public health unit traced 10 case of COVID-19 back to the salon.

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Now six workers from the salon, including the owner, have tested positive for the virus, along with three clients and seven of their close contacts.

Following the outbreak, there were reports on social media that a group of people from Toronto were bused to the nail salon, or somewhere in the city, bringing COVID-19 along with them.

Moore said in fact, there is no travel history for any one of the known 16 cases.

He also noted that it’s still a mystery as to how the virus found its way into the nail salon.

“It’s not clear to us yet the directionality. We just know that clinic was associated with all of our current cases at present,” Moore said.

In total, six employees at the salon caught virus, then passed it off to three clients, including a hospital worker, a woman and a worker at the Rustic Spud, a downtown restaurant now closed because of the positive diagnosis.

A second Rustic Spud worker tested positive Friday, the child of the female client, two correctional officers who were close contacts of the clients, a construction worker stationed on the Amherst Island Ferry dock site, which is now closed, as well as a patio worker at the Amherstiew Golf Club, which has also closed its patio.

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On Thursday, public health said there are only 10 employees at the salon. With four employees infected on Thursday and two on Friday, that would point 60 per cent of the staff having the virus.

Read more: 10 cases of COVID-19 linked to Kingston nail salon, regional total reaches 73

Public health said they found several deficiencies in the operation of the salon, including some employees coming to work while symptomatic, inappropriate sanitizing of tools and work spaces and noted that social distancing was an issue while the salon was operating. The business reportedly did not keep accurate records of its clients, which made it difficult to contact the 500 or so customers who had used the salon.

Moore added that because some of these clients and their contacts were workers in health care and correctional facilities, those workers would have posed great risks to vulnerable communities in local institutions.

“I’d call it a near miss where if we really hadn’t caught this early, it could have been much bigger,” Moore said about the outbreak.

Nevertheless, Moore did say public health is expecting to see more cases.

“I’m not going to be surprised if there’s more cases, if we don’t have 30 cases after the weekend, because we’ve tested hundreds of individuals, over 700 people [Friday],” he said. But all in all, Moore believes that the community has been galvanized by the outbreak, and will be taking precautions to protect themselves going forward.
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Nevertheless, to ensure added protection, Moore issued a public health order, making it mandatory for most establishments to enforce mandatory masks and face coverings.

Read more: Kingston-area public health officials order mandatory mask-wearing in indoor public settings

 

On Thursday, Moore put a call out, asking any client of the nail salon to immediately get tested and then self-isolate for 14 days no matter the result. The salon had about 500 clients visit from June 12 to June 24, and public health has identified around 180 close contacts of those clients that will now have to be monitored.

Lineups outside the region’s assessment centre have been spanning blocks since Thursday. Moore said a special outdoor testing centre — meant only for clients of the nail salon — will be established Sunday at St. Lawrence College before the assessment centre moves to the Leon’s Centre on Monday.

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The region’s total has reached 79 as of Friday, after over a week of seeing absolutely no cases at all. In fact, the Kingston area has not seen 10 cases in a week since the beginning of April.

Despite finding deficiencies with the nail salon, Moore said public health would not be fining the business. But, going forward, he said businesses not in compliance with Stage 2 guidelines will be named publicly and given fines, starting at $700 a day.

No Stage 2 changes in KFL&A region

Premier Doug Ford lauded contact-tracing efforts in Kingston, after the 16 active cases were linked to an outbreak at a local nail salon.

Read more: Cross-border travellers angered they’re paying annual travel insurance amid COVID-19 pandemic

Ford said Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addinton (KFL&A) Public Health’s ability to identify the source of the outbreak and alert the public was a good sign.

“What it shows is that the system is working, because how quickly we contacted and traced the 500 people,” Ford said during his daily press briefing on Friday.

Despite the potentially large number of people put at risk by the outbreak, Minister of Health Christine Elliott echoed the premier, saying the outbreak does not detract from Stage 2 reopening efforts.

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“It doesn’t mean that we need to move back on anything that we’ve moved into Stage 2, but we are continuing to follow it to make sure that the appropriate precautions are taken,” Elliott continued.