Results of COVID-19 positive cases under investigation returned

Media release

18 August 2020

Results of genome testing from two Auckland COVID-19 cases that were under investigation have returned this morning confirming one case is connected to the Auckland August cluster.   

The second case is a man who works as a maintenance worker at the Rydges Hotel managed isolation facility in Auckland who does not have any routine contact with guests. His partial genome sequencing results indicate his case is not linked to the community cluster.
No other cases linked to this person have been identified to date.  

Further genome sequencing and matching is being completed today and fuller analysis is expected later. 

The person returned a positive result for COVID-19 on Sunday 16 August with symptom onset on 11 August. He was transferred to Jet Park Hotel quarantine facility on Monday 17 August. It has taken till this morning for genomic sequencing results to confirm the origin of the case. 

Genome sequencing shows a returnee from the USA with the same sequence as the maintenance worker was at the Rydges Hotel from 28 July to 31 July before they returned a Day 3 positive test and were immediately moved to the Jet Park quarantine facility on 31 July. 

At this stage there is no obvious person-to-person connection between the worker and the returnee from the USA but investigations continue. 

Initial reviews of CCTV footage and swipe card movements so far show no interaction between the two people including no entry to physical locations occupied by the returnee from the USA.

The room the USA returnee was in has been unoccupied since the case was transferred to the Jet Park quarantine facility and is still empty. The room underwent hospital-grade cleaning with hydrogen peroxide vapour sanitation using a BioQuell machine.

Contact tracing and testing has not connected any further cases to the maintenance worker, and to date this remains a single case. 

Six close contacts he worked with at the managed isolation facility have been identified and are in self-isolation. They have all returned negative results from surveillance testing last week, however as a precaution all staff and returnees at the Rydges are being retested again via an onsite testing team. Forty-five staff members and 54 guests were tested yesterday, the remainder will be tested today.

Three household close contacts of the man are all in self-isolation and have been tested.  

Interviews with the man have revealed that he attended two of the Emmanuel Cook Islands Good News Fellowship church services on the morning and evening of 9 August. Health officials have contact traced all attendees as close contacts. As of last night, all but nine of them had been tested with the remainder being tested today. All are in self-isolation. 

The venue of the service is a school hall and deep cleaning of the facility is currently underway.   

Health officials are currently assessing if environmental testing at the Rydges would provide any further insight, however, the frequent deep cleansing of the facility means this is most likely not possible. 

Actions undertaken at the Rydges Managed Isolation Facility

As soon as the positive test was established a series of actions were undertaken immediately at Rydges including:

  • The hotel was put into immediate lock down on Sunday morning, as soon as the positive test was returned.   
  • Thorough cleaning of shared areas of the hotel was carried out.
  • Close contacts of the staff member identified and put into self-isolation until tested (noting that this staff member was not in a public-facing role)
  • Lock down of guests in hotel lifted once cleaning completed and close contacts identified. 
  • Close analysis of movements were undertaken at including: 
    • Review of CCTV
    • Review of room entry data to look for connection to cases
  • Genomic Sequence sought from ESR
  • Health advice sought 
  • Further testing of all returnees and staff undertaken
  • Confirmation that infection prevention controls have been followed
  • Normal procedures resumed

The man carried out maintenance tasks on vacant rooms between bookings, following full infection prevention and controls, including wearing PPE. 

100% of staff have been tested since the Auckland outbreak, and as a precaution all staff are being retested. Returnees are also undergoing testing and in some cases, being retested now. 

Media contact

Peter Abernethy
021 366 111     
[email protected]

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