Two test positive
RAPID antigen tests were provided to Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors and executives last week after they attended a meeting alongside a councillor who later tested positive to COVID-19.
Shire CEO John Baker alerted councillors and officers to the case in an email on Wednesday 30 March, the day after the meeting at the shire’s Rosebud offices.
Within days one of the executive officers also tested positive to COVID.
“The current advice is that we do not need to isolate unless we have symptoms or we test positive via a RAT,” Mr Baker said in an email to councillors and senior officers.
He said the group had spent less than four hours with the infected councillor “and consequently are not classed as close work contacts” but advised it was “prudent” to get tested.
Mr Baker said the tests could be collected by councillors on Thursday morning but added “obviously do not come in tomorrow if you have any symptoms”.
Notification of the councillor’s diagnosis came on the same day the shire issued a news release warning that “COVID-19 infections are on the rise again on the Mornington Peninsula” and it was “time to get your COVID booster shot to ensure you are fully protected ahead of the [Easter school] holidays”.
“We all have family, friends and colleagues that have either had COVID-19 or have had to isolate as a household contact. It can be a difficult time,” the unattributed news release stated.
On Sunday, the peninsula was listed as having 1730 active COVID-19 cases, 241 higher than the previous day.
Cr Gill told The News he asked the mayor, Cr Anthony Marsh, if he could be excused from physically attending briefings at the shire’s Rosebud offices due to the risks posed by COVID-19. Cr Gill sought permission to attend online, in the same way council meetings had been held throughout last year’s lockdowns.
Cr Gill said Cr Marsh had told him he disliked “hybrid” meetings and told Cr Gill to physically attend all meetings or attend them all online.
Cr Gill acknowledged there had been technical problems with online meetings, but felt briefings should fall into a different category to public council meetings where councillors were required to vote.
He said he had worn a mask and distanced himself from other people in the room during Wednesday’s pre-budget briefing.
He said one councillor – since diagnosed as COVID positive – “was frequently coughing” during the meeting.
A council officer sitting next to the councillor had also since tested positive “but you don’t know if that’s where he caught it”.
“I am more susceptible to COVID than others and I want to limit my exposure,” Cr Gill said.
“I asked to be given a code to [gain online access] to last Wednesday’s and other non-voting meetings, but this was refused.
“I went unwillingly to where, as has been shown, there was a COVID-positive person.”
Cr Marsh has been contacted for comment.
The shire’s people and culture manager Kelly Gillies said the shire had “clear protocols” in line with health department requirements and advice if councillors or staff tested positive to COVID-19.
“This includes informing all identified workplace contacts, monitoring of symptoms, and recommending daily rapid antigen testing for five days. We do not provide information about specific cases, in line with health privacy requirements,” she said.
“This includes cleaning guidelines when a confirmed COVID-19 person attended the setting in the previous 72 hours.”