An employee at the country’s largest health maintenance organization was diagnosed with the coronavirus after attending a work event at an unspecified location that recognized staff efforts to combat the virus outbreak, according to a report Sunday.
As a result of the infection, seven other workers who attended the event were ordered into quarantine. Clalit Health Services CEO Ehud Davidson and his deputy were told they could skip isolation after a review found they did not come into close contact with the infected person, the Ynet news site reported.
Clalit confirmed in a statement that Davidson was not going into quarantine and said the event had been arranged to honor the efforts made by the HMO’s logistic and information systems divisions in recent months.
“It was held in a spacious hall and included 50 people — which is the quota allowed according to Health Ministry guidelines,” the statement said. “The participants sat at a distance from each other according to the rules and wore masks as required.”
The entire event was recorded on video and an epidemiological review by the Health Ministry’s Tel Aviv District doctor assessed that “that only seven participants are required to go into quarantine.”
“Since the CEO was a distance [from the patient] in accordance with the rules and wore a mask for the whole event, the doctor determined that there is no need [for him] to go into quarantine,” the statement said, as reported by Ynet.
A source in the HMO claimed that Davidson and his deputy removed their masks when they addressed the gathering, and said the infected person had mingled with everyone in the room.
“Was there distancing between those who attended for the whole event? No,” the source said. “The worst neglect is that the confirmed [COVID-19] worker walked around among all those present but they still only put seven people in quarantine.”
The source criticized management for holding the event and said there had been objections among staff.
Also on Sunday, the Health Ministry said eight members of the Lazuz gym in downtown Jerusalem were diagnosed with COVID-19. The ministry ordered all those who were at the premises at the same time as the patients over the past two weeks to go into self-quarantine.
One member of Lazuz told The Times of Israel that the gym managers had been “really up to par with everything” in maintaining Health Ministry guidelines, checking members’ temperature at the entrance and ensuring that all those who entered wore masks and gloves. Those who were infected probably didn’t know at the time when they attended the gym, she speculated.
The source said there was some confusion over who needed to enter quarantine. The gym notified all members of the times that the infected people had been working out, but a similar review published by the Health Ministry in English covered broader periods.
“Like a good girl I called the Health Ministry [for clarification], and they put me in quarantine,” she said, while expressing her frustration that there were two lists doing the rounds on social media.
“For someone who is very active, being in quarantine really messes me up,” she said, adding that she wouldn’t hesitate to return to the gym when it reopens on June 20.
“I am not afraid of the coronavirus, I follow the rules to the best of my ability,” she said. “I need the gym for my sanity.”
Israel has seen a spike in recent COVID-19 cases as over the past few weeks it has rolled back lockdown measures applied in mid-March in an effort to curb the coronavirus outbreak. The number of daily cases had dropped to a handful after restrictions were lifted, before again surging and topping 200 daily cases last week.
The Health Ministry said Sunday morning that so far 19,008 people have been diagnosed with the disease since the outbreak began, up 36 from the night before. Of those, 15,360 have recovered and 300 have died.
A total of 183 schools and daycare centers have been shut down due to infections out of 5,200 schools and 20,000 kindergartens in the country. Last week 15 schools that had been shuttered due to recent virus cases among pupils or staff reopened and another 46 are expected to reopen this week, Ynet reported.
Earlier, the Israel Defense Forces said that dozens of support troops for the elite Sayeret Matkal commando unit were put into quarantine due to a patient diagnosed with the disease. The IDF said that the operational readiness of the unit was not affected.
In addition, two Beit Yaakov schools in the city of Jaffa were closed and all staff and pupils put in quarantine after a teacher at the school was diagnosed with the virus, the Walla website reported.
Guards at the Prime Minister’s Residence and a worker in the President’s Residence were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend, but neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor President Reuven Rivlin were ordered to go into isolation.
Outgoing Health Ministry director Moshe Bar Siman-Tov told Kan radio Sunday that he was surprised by the speed at which Israel seems to have been hit by a second wave of the coronavirus.
“We can still be relatively optimistic and flatten the curve without a lockdown. We need to keep the guidelines, especially regarding masks. There was an issue in keeping people aware that the corona was not a one-off that came and went. We need to convince the public of how important it is. I think the public, and everybody, was quite tired.”