Don’t worry yet, SA Health says as COVID-19 rumours swirl in Murray Bridge
Local people may have been tested after possible exposure to the coronavirus, but there's no risk to public health at this stage, the department says.
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No public COVID-19 exposure sites have been recorded in Murray Bridge during the past week, despite local rumours, SA Health says.
A post in a Facebook group called “Murray Bridge Community Chat” caused a major stir on Wednesday morning when its author wrote “and just like that we have a positive case here in Murray Bridge”.
SA Health confirmed to Murray Bridge News that yes, a staff member who later tested positive had worked at the hospital’s medical imaging department on Monday.
However, all staff and patients who came into contact with the person had since been directed to quarantine and get tested, a spokeswoman said, and the area had been thoroughly cleaned.
“Anyone (else) who attended the hospital doesn’t need to worry,” she said.
Still, the responses to the Facebook post showed that locals were worried, to some extent.
Possible COVID-19 exposures have been reported at other local workplaces, and at least one private function, during the past week.
So why has none of this showed up on SA Health’s list of public exposure sites, or the map of COVID cases in SA?
How COVID tracing and case mapping works
At each of the recent exposure sites in Murray Bridge, SA Health was able to contact everyone who was present at the time.
That means there was no risk to the general public, so those businesses did not need to be listed as public exposure sites.
The same deal applied when a COVID-positive truck driver visited Big River Pork in September: workers had to go into quarantine, but because it was not a public place, no public warning was put out.
Whenever someone tests positive to COVID-19, an SA Health team assesses the level of public risk.
Contact tracers get in touch with anyone who may have been in close contact with the COVID-positive person, such as work colleagues or people they had a meal with; and casual contacts, such as customers who visited a shop or restaurant when the COVID-positive person was there.
If the contact tracers think they might have missed anyone, SA Health issues a public alert.
The department also directs businesses to thoroughly clean any areas where a COVID-positive person might have spent time.
As the virus becomes more common in the community, SA Health will focus its contact tracing efforts on settings where people are at the highest risk, such as aged care facilities, hospitals, prisons and disability services.
“Exposure locations will still be listed on our site as deemed necessary, however the priority will be these high-risk groups and settings,” the department said in a statement on Wednesday.
“(Our communicable disease control branch) will continue to contact other businesses by email, phone or voice message in order of priority.”
In the case of the “heat map” of confirmed cases, SA Health records cases as occurring in the local government area where a person lives.
If someone who tested positive worked in Murray Bridge, but lived elsewhere, they would not be counted as a local case.
Only one Murray Bridge resident is confirmed to have had COVID-19 since the pandemic started, way back in early 2020.
The Coorong district hasn’t had any yet.
A spokeswoman said SA Health would not comment on individual cases.
However, she directed anyone concerned about the spread of COVID-19 to regularly check the public exposure site list on the SA Health website, or to follow the department on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
The Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network Facebook page is another useful source of local information.
More information about contact tracing: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.
More information about the location of cases within SA: www.covid-19.sa.gov.au.
What happens if, or when, we get cases in Murray Bridge?
The Murray Bridge hospital is one of about 10 in country SA which have been set up to treat COVID patients if needed, under a plan put out by SA Health this month.
Wayne Champion, the chief executive of the Riverland Mallee Coorong Local Health Network, will play a key role in responding to any outbreaks in regional SA.
“Regional COVID-accepting hospitals ... will accept and stabilise acutely unwell COVID regional patients and assist the transfer to one of three designated metropolitan hospitals,” he said.
“As patient numbers increase, larger regional COVID-accepting hospitals may commence providing inpatient care for some positive patients.”
In other words: if or when COVID-19 does reach the Murraylands, SA Health has a plan.
Hopefully it won’t come to that anytime soon.
Almost 17 per cent of Murray Bridge district residents over the age of 15, or about 3200 people, are still completely unvaccinated against COVID-19, according to this week’s figures.
The same goes for 12% of Coorong district residents.
About 83% of Murray Bridge locals have received both doses of vaccine, and 88% of those in the Coorong.
South Australia recorded 484 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, the highest daily total since the pandemic began.
More information about exposure sites: www.sahealth.sa.gov.au.
Get a COVID test: Visit the testing clinic next door to the Caltex roadhouse at 8786 Princes Highway, Tailem Bend at any time; or book an appointment at the Murray Bridge Respiratory Clinic via www.hotdoc.com.au.
Make a vaccination appointment: Visit www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/covidvaccine.
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It’s a pity that details were withheld in Murray Bridge. The not knowing has been causing more concern. So the rumour mill went into high drive. The local FB group is at least honest and not ducking like Health SA have been doing. Even getting details out has been like “tooth pulling”. Look how long it took to find out a contact was at Imaging clinic.