P.E.I. health officials say Leaps and Bounds Childcare Centre in Charlottetown has shut down after a staff member tested positive for COVID-19.
About 40 children and eight staff will have to be tested and self-isolate, as well as close relatives of the children.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison said she received the call about the case just before she was about to start her regular weekly briefing for the public and the media.
That briefing was effectively cancelled, and instead Morrison and Premier Dennis King devoted the briefing to talking about the new case.
"This is very difficult news for anyone to hear," said King, given the disruption to so many families' lives.
King and Morrison emphasized that the news was new to them as well, having reached them only this morning.
"The source of this case is likely travel-related, from what we understand at this time," said Morrison.
She said the worker was a contact of someone who had been out of the province.
The daycare worker who tested positive is in their 20s. Morrison said it is too early to say whether initial measures will be able to contain a possible outbreak.
"We'll know more after we test the contacts and the children," she said. "This case does remind people that they should not go to work if they are not feeling well."
Part of the contact tracing investigation will be looking into whether there was cohorting at the daycare or mixing between different age groups, said Morrison. That will be part of determining who at the daycare would be considered close contacts, but she said they are not waiting for that information before acting.
"Get everyone home, keep them isolated until we get the negative tests back on the children and the staff," she said.
"At this point in time, as it is so early on in the investigation, because it is always about risk assessment, but we are wanting to err on the side of caution."
Hope to have tests back Thursday evening or Friday morning
The province sent out a release late Thursday afternoon saying parents have been advised to have children tested and members of the household to self-isolate until results are back.
Household members only needed to get tested Thursday if they are experiencing symptoms.
In an interview with CBC News: Compass, Morrison said "everyone is being tested this afternoon" and she hopes to have results on those tests back either Thursday evening or early Friday morning.
"Of course as soon as we do, we'll let people know," she said. "We'll be contacting any positive cases directly."
Resource for affected families
Experience in other parts of the world suggests that the spread of coronavirus happens less often between children, said Morrison, and that may work in the province's favour in terms of avoiding an outbreak.
The province is pulling together a dedicated resource for the people and families involved, said King.
He said the families would get assistance in self-isolating, and be directed to support programs already in place should they need to be away from work because of this exposure.
Later Thursday, the province's Facebook page posted a link to the COVID-19 Special Leave Fund site, with the phone number 1-866-222-1751.
King said no new restrictions are being considered at this point in light of this case but did not rule out future measures.
P.E.I. has had 188 cases of COVID-19, with seven currently considered active.
There have been no deaths on the Island, though two people had to be hospitalized.
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