Why the owner of RiverBreeze near Truro went public about employee's COVID case

·3 min read

The owner of a popular corn maze near Truro, N.S., says he decided to go public about an employee contracting COVID-19 this week because it was the right thing to do.

Jim Lorraine, who runs RiverBreeze CornMaze, announced Tuesday on Facebook that someone who directed vehicles in the parking lot of the Fear Farm had tested positive for the COVID-19.

The employee worked Friday and Saturday nights but never worked the maze during the day, Lorraine said.

He said he immediately contacted Public Health after the employee told him about the positive result Tuesday.

"I think it's better for us just to be totally transparent on this one," Lorraine told CBC Radio's Maritime Noon on Wednesday.

"The possibility of transmission is quite low due to the fact this individual was in the parking lot directing cars where to park, but still we felt we should be proactive on this one and put it out there."

The Nova Scotia Health Authority has not issued its own potential exposure alert about the case, and it's still unclear how the individual became infected.

The province reported a new case in the Northern Zone, which includes Truro, on Tuesday. There are now 19 active cases of COVID-19, with four new cases reported Wednesday.

When Lorraine contacted Public Health, he said he was directed to inform staff who had worked around the person who tested positive. He decided to go a step further and tell all of the staff at the farm, as well as customers.

Lorraine said "it was the easiest and toughest decision" he's ever made.

"It's tough because you don't want to be known as a person that has somebody that became ill, and so far, we haven't had any customers that became ill because of us," he said.

Lorraine updated his Facebook post on Wednesday evening, saying Public Health has determined the farm was not the source of the infection and that "there was no COVID-19 exposure at our Fear Farm."

He said the employee seems to be doing well and the business won't be naming the individual.

"We refuse to do any of that in terms of naming people, because you've got to remember when the disease strikes somebody, it's not their fault," he said.

No evidence of community spread

It's the Nova Scotia Health Authority's job to issue public warnings about possible exposure of COVID-19 in the community.

In a statement, the health authority said if a public health investigation points to possible exposure at a business, the business will be contacted.

"We can't comment specifically on RiverBreeze or the decision by that business to issue a statement," spokesperson Carla Adams said in an email. "Protection of privacy is very important to us. This includes the privacy of those who have been tested for COVID-19 and those people who test positive."

Several of Nova Scotia's recent cases are still under investigation, but the province's chief medical officer of health has said nothing points to community spread at this point.

Lorraine said he was initially concerned about how Nova Scotians would react to his post, which has now been shared thousands of times

"These people are at a heightened sense of anxiety when it comes to these things, so we were quite prepared to get a lot of pushback on it and we were quite pleasantly surprised," he said.

"People are very happy that we're out there publicly before we were told to do it. We did it on our own."

Farm will continue to share updates

RiverBreeze is now closed for the season.

Lorraine said he'll continue to post any updates on the farm's Facebook page.

"We are going to remain totally open and transparent on this, and I think we owe that to everybody," he said.

"I think that's the way as Nova Scotians we can help keep things in check in terms of this virus until such time as there is a cure for it or vaccine."