IF YOU can believe the authorities, there are no exposure sites in Bass Coast and South Gippsland, haven’t been for days.

That’s the latest from the Gippsland Region Public Health Unit (GRPHU) at 5pm on Saturday, October 9.

But there’s been plenty of rumours and confusion swirling around nonetheless.

In the rumour department is the Shady Oaks Café at Leongatha. Which we hasten the add, it is NOT, repeat NOT, and never has been an exposure site.

In the confusion department is the Bass General Store and Post Office, closed out of an abundance of caution last Friday until clear directions could be obtained.

It was on the previous Saturday, October 2, that they had a visit by a COVID-positive person, but they only found out on Thursday, October 7, five days later.

Unfortunately rumours and confusion about exposure sites will no longer be clarified by GRPHU, which announced last Friday that “we are no longer managing Gippsland venues identified as exposure sites”.

“While the GRPHU will identify the sites based on case interviews, the information is then reported to the Department of Health, who will then manage the site from there including liaising with the business owner/venue management,” said a spokesperson for GRPHU.

It is up to the Health Department to advise the community through its www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au exposure sites webpage. But, as we know, this no longer seems to be happening in the previously comprehensive way that it was before.

And when you’ve got 17,199 active cases across the state, including 186 in Gippsland, dominated by Latrobe 101 active cases (+7 Saturday) and Baw Baw 57 (+13) which is the local municipality on the rise, sandwiched between Latrobe (101) and Cardinia (280), you can understand.

At Sunday’s briefing session, COVID Commander acknowledged that the system was straining with upwards of 70,000 tests daily, saying that Tier 2 sites were unlikely to be listed anymore as they yielded little useful data and impacted venues unnecessarily.

“In the case of Mildura, our focus is on a number of known households.”

The good folk at the Bass General Store moved to advise the community on their own last Thursday:

“Hey guys unfortunately we had a positive case in our shop on Saturday October 2 at 12pm. We have only found out today (Thursday, October 7) and I am currently trying to get hold of the contact tracing team. Our whole family has just done a covid test and we will be closed until we get cleared to open again. We are extremely sorry for any inconvenience this has caused. Please if you were in our shop on Saturday (October 2) get tested. If you have any questions, please inbox msg or call us on 5678-2220 thank you!”

The message on Facebook was greatly received – good old Facebook!

They found out they had been classified as a Tier 2 site, who knew, got the all-clear to reopen on Saturday, with negative tests all round.

At the Shady Oaks Café in Leongatha’s Young Street, a waitress at the venue came into contact with a person who had attended an event at the Korumburra Gun Club the weekend before, however while that person returned a negative, and the waitress also subsequently returned a negative, the café decided to close on Wednesday morning, for everyone to get tested and to received directions, they hoped, from DHS.

No dice.

“We called the COVID Hot Line and they had no idea what we should do,” said café operator Kay Schaarschmidt.

“We said we were going to stay on the line until they found someone who did know, ultimately they told us to shut and get tested.

“But when we went to the testing station at Wonthaggi, effectively as tertiary contacts, we did not need to get tested. We got tested anyway while we were there, stayed shut, and waited overnight for a negative result.

“We reopened again on Friday all clear.

“DHS didn’t know what we should do. We tried to call everyone we knew that usually come in. There was also a bit of talk in the community. There are ramifications when these things happen.

“We’re just pleased to be open again and we thank everyone for bearing with us but I don’t suppose we’ll be the last.”

GRPHU did say however, that they will still be publishing exposure sites of key importance to public health.

“Venues that are identified as an exposure site will be liaising directly with the Department of Health. Tier 1 Exposure Sites in Gippsland will still be published on the GRPHU Facebook page and website.

“However, advice about things like exposure site cleaning, staff management and minimising risk to public health will be managed directly by the Department of Health.”

Exposure site venues should contact the COVID Hotline for information on 1800 675 398.

Due to the current COVID environment in Gippsland, the focus for GRPHU is case management. The unit is no longer managing exposure sites.

Bass Coast

There are no exposure sites in Bass Coast.

There was however a new case reported on Saturday, bringing to 11 as the number of active cases in the Bass Coast LGA.

There were also positive viral fragments detected in wastewater in Wonthaggi.

“We urge the community to remain vigilant. Anyone experiencing any flu-like symptoms, however minor, should get tested. Symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Testing opportunities in Bass Coast include;

  • Cowes drive through at Bass Coast Health 9am – 3pm weekdays.
  • Wonthaggi Hospital drive through at Bass Coast Health – relocated to the former McBride Campus of Wonthaggi Secondary College, Watt Street, Wonthaggi, 9am – 5pm, 7 days.
  • Wonthaggi Respiratory Clinic. Appointments required, for bookings go to https://bit.ly/3Fbd8eH.

South Gippsland

There were two new COVID-19 cases reported in South Gippsland on Saturday, bringing to 12 as the number of active cases in the LGA.

There are no exposure sites in South Gippsland.

Testing opportunities in South Gippsland include;

  • Foster Respiratory Clinic. Appointments required, for bookings contact 5682 2088.
  • Gippsland Southern Health Service, Leongatha, drive through. 9am – 2.30pm Wednesday and Thursday. From Monday 18 October, testing times will change to Monday and Thursday 9am – 3pm. Bookings can be made on 5654 2777 – Korumburra Reception.