Victoria’s Chief Health Officer says officials are “throwing absolutely everything” at new outbreaks in the state, as another case is linked to the regional town of Kilmore and the Box Hill Hospital outbreak grows to four cases.
- One new case has also been linked to the Chadstone Butcher Club, which is connected to the Kilmore cluster
- Residents in Kilmore have reported receiving conflicting advice from contact tracers
- Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the public health team was adapting and “committed to making it right”
The state recorded 11 new cases of COVID-19 today, including nine in metropolitan Melbourne and one where the location is still being investigated.
The new case in Kilmore, north of Melbourne, is linked to a cluster that started when an infectious person from Melbourne’s Chadstone Butcher Club outbreak dined in the town.
Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said it was the first non-staff member infected inside the Kilmore cafe.
“We think it’s a casual contact of the cafe, a direct casual contact of the cafe, so someone who went in for a short period of time,” he said.
Nearly 680 people have been tested in Kilmore over the past three days, after anyone who visited the Oddfellows Cafe between September 30 and October 3 was classed as a potential close contact and asked to get tested, even without symptoms.
But some residents have reported receiving conflicting advice from different health agencies.
CHO promises to address conflicting advice given to close contacts
Angela Lawton, who ate at the Oddfellows Cafe on Thursday before giving birth to her son on Friday, said she did not find out she was a close contact until after she was discharged on Sunday.
“It was pretty terrifying,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne. “Everything’s a bit surreal after you have a baby anyway, with all the sleep deprivation.
“It was just extremely scary to think about the possible ramifications for myself and my family and the wider community given that I was in the maternity ward for a couple of days.”
Ms Lawton has since tested negative for COVID-19, but said she was initially made aware of the risk through Facebook and the work of the Oddfellows Cafe owner.
“She had been amazing, and I know the staff there were wonderful about enforcing guidelines and doing everything they could to reduce risk in the time leading up to this exposure,” she said.
“So we actually were able to find out a full day and a bit before we were contacted by the Government due to Kim’s effort in spreading the word and minimising the risk.”
Ms Lawton said on Tuesday the state’s coronavirus hotline had told her she should only get tested if she had symptoms.
When asked about the conflicting advice today, Professor Sutton said the way outbreaks were being managed was changing to a more “comprehensive and precautionary” approach.
“There are some elements to work through between the advice that’s been given centrally and regionally, and we will take those lessons and hear the feedback,” he said.
He apologised for any confusion but said the public health team was “committed to making it right”.
Two consecutive days without a COVID-19 death for first time since July
No coronavirus deaths have been reported in Victoria for the second consecutive day.
The last time Victoria reported no coronavirus deaths across consecutive days was before July 10.
Since then, at least one death has been recorded every day except for July 13, September 15 and October 5.
The new case in Kilmore brings the number of active cases in regional Victoria to five, but that total includes what might be a false positive reported in Mildura yesterday.
Premier Daniel Andrews said that “weak positive” was still being investigated, but was included in the total of active cases out of “an abundance of caution”.
Metropolitan Melbourne’s rolling 14-day case average is 9.4, down from 9.7 yesterday, while regional Victoria’s remains at 0.4.
Two mystery cases with an unknown source have dropped off Melbourne’s two-week total since yesterday, bringing it to 12.
The mystery case number reflects infections with an unknown source recorded between September 23 and October 6.
There are now 195 active coronavirus cases in Victoria — the first time there have been fewer than 200 active infections since June 26, Mr Andrews said.
Nearly 15,600 COVID-19 tests were processed overnight.
Source of new hospital cluster still unclear as staff get tested
Six of today’s new cases are linked to known outbreaks, and the other five are still being investigated.
They include one new case linked to the Chadstone Butcher Club, one linked to the Frankston family outbreak and two linked to Uniting AgeWell in Preston.
“They are complex outbreaks, they are challenging, but we are throwing absolutely everything at them,” Professor Sutton said.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is investigating an outbreak linked to the Box Hill Hospital in Melbourne’s east.
There are now four active cases linked to that outbreak, including three staff and one patient, but the source has not yet been confirmed.
Professor Sutton said all staff had been tested, and all close contacts had been asked to quarantine.
“We will get on top of it,” he said.
Up to 30 per cent of cases could go undetected, CHO says
Under Victoria’s roadmap to reopening, the state needs to record a 14-day average below five, and a two-week mystery case total below five, for Melbourne to have further restrictions lifted this month.
This step was originally scheduled for October 26, but late last month Mr Andrews said it might be as soon as October 19.
Today Mr Andrews said the outbreaks in Frankston, Chadstone and Kilmore showed how much the situation could change in a week, and any decisions would not be made until closer to the date.
“It’s not possible for us to give people a full week’s notice,” he said.
“We’ve just got to wait for the most complete picture.”
When asked about what the restrictions might look like for Halloween, on October 31, Mr Andrews said he expected rules around mask-wearing and the 5km travel limit could still apply.
Professor Sutton said the aim was still to hit an average of five new cases per day, but he was reassured by the number of new cases currently linked to outbreaks.
“They’re more reassuring than a case that just pops up in the community where we’ve got no idea where it has come from,” he said.
Professor Sutton said up to 30 per cent of coronavirus cases in the community could be going undetected on days when testing numbers were low.
“I don’t think it’s a huge number,” he said.